Highway improvement plan ‘very ambitious’ – and it needs to be

The Transportation Improvement Program of the Williamsport Area Transportation Study that is now on public display is “very ambitious,” according to Mark Murawski, Lycoming County transportation planner.

It needs to be.

The “feel test” for local motorists these days likely reveals a perception that local roads, streets and bridge conditions range from barely tolerable to severly deteriorating.

Bolstered in part by passage of state transportation bill late in 2013, the new highway improvement plan attempts to change that perception, though it will take some time.

In the next few years, there will be a $7.5 million facelift on West Fourth Street in the city’s west end, rehabilitation of the West Fourth Street bridge over Lycoming Creek and reconstruction of Third Street between Campbell and Basin streets.

There are more than 75 road improvements, 15 bridge rehabilitations and 20 bridge replacerments on the drawing board, all of them pretty much overdue.

Two public hearings are scheduled on the plan, at 6 p.m. June 19 during the Lycoming County Planning Commission meeting and at 10 a.m. at the WATS Technical Committee meeting.

Money for some of the more big ticket items on the improvement list is coming from the state transportation bill, which will make an additional $66 million available to Lycoming County. We can decry the impact of the bill at the gas pump and in other places, but most local motorists would acknowledge that road and bridge deterioration locally is outpacing current work schedules that were based on funding before approval of the bill.

Now it’s time to make the extra funding pay off in the form of highway and bridge problem solving and wise project priorities.

The public is invited to attend these public hearings and judge for themselves whether that is being done.