Big area impact for transportation bill

MONTOURSVILLE – When Gov. Tom Corbett signed a massive, $2 billion transportation funding bill into law in November of 2013, it promised to bring much-needed money to road and bridge projects across the state. Now, that promise is becoming a reality.

“This is how we’re going to build a stronger Pennsylvania with the transportation money that we’ve received,” said Sandy Tosca, state Department of Transportation district executive.

Tosca spoke at a press conference at PennDOT’s District 3-0 office Thursday, to outline the projects moving forward this year in Lycoming and surrounding counties that are a direct result of Act 89.

More than $600 million in additional funding will be available statewide for 2014, Tosca said.

It’s money that translates to significant dollars for local work. In the Williamsport area alone, $5.8 million will be used for resurfacing, pavement preservation, bridge replacement, intersection improvement and sign structure replacement.

More than $17 million worth of similar projects will get underway in Columbia, Montour, Northumberland and Union counties; the Northern Tier region of Bradford, Sullivan and Tioga counties will see more than $13 million in work.

One of those resurfacing projects is a 7.39-mile stretch of Route 220, from Lycoming Mall Drive in Muncy Township to Railroad Street in Hughesville Borough, that Tosca said is in “severe condition.”

It’s also a project that she has wanted to see completed for several years, and one that now is possible through Act 89.

“We’ve been trying to get the funding to do this for the last two years,” she said. “We were trying to break it down into sections, but now, because of (Act 89), we can do it all at once.”

In addition to this and other projects, up to 272 miles of road will be resurfaced and 53 bridges will be replaced or rehabilitated in the district, Tosca said, which will be especially beneficial coming on the heels of a harsh winter season.

“We had a pretty severe winter,” she said. “We need to get roads and bridges into shape and keep them maintained, and this funding is the key.”

These are only a few of the 50 additional projects that will get underway in the district this year, Tosca said. Only 72 were scheduled for the entire nine-county district prior to the passage of the bill.

Lycoming County Transportation Planner Mark Murawski had praise for the bill and its impact as well.

“Had Act 89 not passed in Pennsylvania, you’d be looking at a disaster today,” he said. “Not only would you see no new projects taking off, but you’d see a reduction in current projects.”

Murawski said that the funding will be going toward various transportation-related projects as well, from new pedestrian and bicycle pathways created in conjunction with the Susquehanna Greenways Partnership to helping with construction of the new terminal at the Williamsport Regional Airport.

“It’s a project that we can use some of these funds for, to stay on track with starting construction next fall,” he said.

Murawski also said that the Williamsport Area Transportation Study will release a specific list of Act 89-related projects sometime next month.

Act 89 is funded by eliminating the 12 cents-per-gallon tax at the pump on gasoline and diesel fuel and replacing it with a tax at the wholesale level.

Previously, taxes on wholesale liquid fuels were capped at $1.25, a figure that had been put into place in 1983. Act 89 will eliminate the cap completely over the next five years.

The bill also has the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs. Roughly 18,000 will be created statewide this year alone, Tosca said.

It’s just another perk of the bill as a whole, which Murawski said is crucial to keeping the region and the state economically sound.

“No matter which way you look at it, this was the right decision,” Murawski said. “This was the right decision for Pennsylvania and the right decision for our area.”