Planning sees funding spike

Lycoming County residents are another step closer to getting some exciting transportation projects this year, with a tremendous funding increase.

The Williamsport Area Transportation Study Technical and Coordinating committees approved its $650,000 two-year unified planning work program Thursday, which is a funding document for the county’s transportation projects.

“This program provides funding sources to hire staff and consultants necessary to make sure projects move along and get finished,” said county Transportation Planner Mark Murawski. “Good planning yields good projects.”

About 90 percent of the $650,000 will be funded by federal and state sources, he said.

“I’ve been here 27 years, and I’ve never seen this increase in planning funds,” Murawski said. “We’re getting $120,000 more over the next two years than we were the prior two years for planning.”

The state transportation bill passed last year “allows PennDOT to reallocate resources and have more money to play with,” he said.

Next, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, county commissioners and city council must approve it. Once the Federal Highway and the Federal Transit administrations approve it, “they start cutting checks to fund the work in (the program),” Murawski said.

The projects the committees are heavily focused on delivering this year are multimodal.

With highways, the last phase of the middle section of the Route 15 median barrier project over Bald Eagle Mountain will be finished this year, Murawski said.

PennDOT is wrapping up its Route 220 study between Jersey Shore and Williamsport, “so we’ll have a game plan about safety and access controls there,” Murawski said.

The routes 220 and 405 intersection in Hughesville study is concluding, as well.

Regarding bridges, the goal is to start working on the secondary road system, as major river bridges have been finished. There are more than 100 structurally deficient bridges on these lower-volume roads, he said. The Loyalsock Creek railroad bridge replacement should be done by late June.

The airport terminal building project still is on schedule for construction for fall 2015 and completion the next fall. The feasibility study has been done, and the environmental assessment is beginning.

Plus, the committees are working with the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership for a regional bicycle trail system between Lake Ontario and the Chesapeake Bay, through New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. The committees’ staff would “work with others on a multi-state basis to see if we can advance that kind of project and get it done,” Murawski said.

The approved work program would have some funding to help make these projects come to fruition.

This is the first year a two-year program has been approved instead of a one-year program, for saving administration costs.