5 PennDOT projects total $21M in county

KATELYN HIBBARD/Sun-Gazette Sandra Tosca, right, state Department of Transportation District 3 executive director, explains the benefits of Gov. Tom Wolf’s road maintenance and preservation program during an editorial board meeting with the Sun-Gazette on Monday. Seated to her left is Michael Bender, PennDOT district plans engineer.

Five major construction projects totaling about $21 million will be set in motion, continued or completed in Lycoming County by this fall, according to the state Department of Transportation.

PennDOT’s Sandra Toska, executive of District 3, headquartered in Montoursville, held an editorial board meeting with the Sun-Gazette, along with Michael Bender, district plans engineer; Eric High, assistant district executive maintenance; Kenneth Pochatko, senior highway maintenance manager; and David Thompson, community relations coordinator.

A $9 million reconstruction of West Fourth Street, which includes the relocation and reconstruction of underground utilities, will begin with utility work in the fall. In early 2018, about 1.37 miles from the base of the Williamsport Area High School’s driveway to the bridge just after the Route 15 interchange will be overhauled.

“We’ll probably get a lot less phone calls for this than for some of our other reconstruction projects,” Tosca joked, acknowledging West Fourth Street’s need of a makeover.

Prior to starting utility work on West Fourth Street, PennDOT will complete improvements to Trenton Avenue in Newberry, which will serve as the detour route for the West Fourth Street reconstruction project. The Trenton

Avenue project began last summer and is expected to be completed by fall at a cost of $1.3 million. Some paving along Third Street is included.

A contract for work on the detour route will be let in May. The detour on Trenton Avenue includes the reconstruction of McMinn Avenue, which will be widened to allow for tractor-trailers. Northbound traffic from West Fourth Street will be redirected to Trenton Avenue, then onto McMinn Avenue and back to Third Street. Westbound traffic coming from Third Street will turn left down Trenton.

The third project involved in the West Fourth Street makeover is the completion of the bridge over Lycoming Creek at the Route 15 interchange. Work includes replacing the deck, sidewalks and parapets, and began in the spring of 2016. The $3.4 million project is expected to be completed in August.

The resurfacing of West Fourth Street will be done in sections, starting at the Route 15 interchange. The first phase will go from the interchange to Arch Street; the second, from Arch to Diamond Street; and the third, from Diamond Street to the middle school.

When all is said and done, the West Fourth Street project should be completed in 2020.

“It’s going to cost a lot of money,” Bender said. “It’s going to be a lot of work. We’re still looking at a multi-year project to do all this, with the amount of work we’ve got going on.”

Other projects in the county include the reconstruction of Route 118 in Hughesville from Spruce Street to Muncy Creek, which began in spring and is expected to be completed by fall, at a cost of about $1.8 million.

The fifth project PennDOT is taking on this year is resurfacing about 7.5 miles along Interstate 180 from Muncy Creek to South Main Street in Muncy Creek Township. The $5.3 million project begins this spring and also is expected to be completed in the fall.

There may be a shift in traffic patterns and flagging, but no detours.

“People coming from the outer reaches of the county to get to Williamsport will see some impact,” Bender said.

Tosca mentioned construction on the bridge over Maynard Street is expected to be completed this year as well.

She also touched on the road maintenance and preservation program, known as Road MaP. The program caps the amount of funding available to state police from the Motor License Fund starting in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

State police has access to about $800 million in funding from the Motor License Fund and the amount it receives increases each year. Road MaP caps available funds at $801 million the first year and will decrease that amount by 4 percent every year until it reaches $500 million.

Weaning the state police off these funds allows an estimated $2.1 billion to be reinvested into local transportation needs over the next 10 years. Roughly $1 billion will go toward capital projects with $500 million solely dedicated to preserving the interstate system, while the remaining $1 billion will go to maintenance, which “has been flatlined, essentially,” for more than a decade, Tosca said.

“There haven’t been any increases to the maintenance allocation since 2006,” she said.

With an annual 4 percent reduction in funding to the police, the local PennDOT district is expecting about $1.2 million in the first year, which will grow to about $2.4 million in the second year, $3.6 million in the third, and so on, Tosca said.

“Over the first five-year period, that’s a $19 million investment back into District 3,” Tosca said. “Unless something goes awry with inflation, we’re able to use some of that funding to deliver a larger program.”

Tosca said that $19 million is estimated to be able to deliver about 150 miles of additional surface improvements over the five-year period, which equates to about 80 miles of microsurfacing and about 70 miles of resurfacing.

“That resurfacing would target our secondary road system, and we have a list of candidates ready to go,” she said. “If we have funding available, those are the projects we’re advancing.”