Transportation bill funds 62 more projects in Lycoming County

The state transportation bill Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law Monday will have a significant impact on highways, bridges and roads locally, funding an additional 62 transportation projects in Lycoming County valued at $113 million, said county Transportation Planner Mark Murawski.

The law is good news for the Williamsport Area Transportation Study Committee, which is set to approve the county’s proposed 20-year transportation plan next month.

The next step is for state Department of Transportation and planning agencies to quickly work together to select “the best mix of projects with the biggest public benefit to see what projects in the Decade of Investment list can be put on our transportation plan,” Murawski said, which the committee then can approve.

The majority of the $113 million will go toward highway improvements, mainly resurfacing and reconstructing various state roads, he said. Bridge improvement projects – replacing or repairing structurally deficient bridges – will make up the 62 remaining projects.

“If you like good roads and bridges, this bill’s for you,” Murawski said.

The legislation will reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges in the county from 108 to about 40 over the next decade, and help reduce poor pavement in the secondary road system the county transportation plan identifies, he said.

The main focus in the transportation plan is to finish existing projects, and $78 million of state and federal funding will go toward finishing 77 highway and bridge projects, he said. The bill provided the additional $31 million needed to top off those projects’ funding.

So the bill’s funding first will go toward completing those projects, and then the 62 new projects on PennDOT’s Decade of Investment plan.

“To fully implement the Decade of Investment and the transportation plan, it will take at least 10 years to tackle those projects,” Murawski said, noting it takes several years to design a project “before we see dirt flying.”

The West Fourth Street partial interchange in Woodward Township is one of the county’s largest projects the bill will fund if approved by the committee, with construction in the latter part of the decade after public meetings on it, he said. The project would make Route 220 accessible from all directions instead of two.

The results of the access management study of the Route 220 corridor between Jersey Shore and Linden should be known next year, he said, and the bill will help address that problem.

“The 220 corridor will get a very high priority from the new state transportation funding because of all the safety and access management problems we have out there now,” Murawski said, “and it’s on the National Highway System, which is a high congressional priority now.”

The key is to balance local development with highway safety and congestion concerns, he said.

“Any new development that’s proposed in that corridor needs to be heavily scrutinized by county and municipal officials, so we’re not re-creating the problem with the highways,” Murawski said.

As the bill provides a new multi-modal fund, it also provides funding for other modes of transportation, including a starting point of about $6 million for aviation statewide.

No projects have yet been determined for that money, but Murawski said the Williamsport Municipal Airport Authority’s high priority will be to secure funding for the proposed airport terminal.

The committee’s final selection of projects will be finalized around July 2014.