State highway bill turning more wishes into working reality

The state has a 12-year transportation program and it is mirrored by similar plans on the county level.

Both are generally talked about as wish lists, with some acknowledgement that not everything can get done.

But with the passage of Act 89, a $2 billion transportation bill signed by Gov. Tom Corbett last November, more of the wishes have a greater chance of coming true.

In our region, the biggest impact from the state’s revised plan involves an area outside Lycoming County that nevertheless will have significant impact in the county.

That would be the long-planned 13-mile-long Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway in Snyder, Union and Northumberland counties. With the transportation program update, design work finally will begin on the thruway, which will relieve traffic congestion on Route 15 around Selinsgrove, Shamokin Dam and Northumberland.

That’s been a goal for more than 20 years on the final missing link of the modernization of Route 15 between Pennsylvania and New York.

Just as significantly, the thruway would take truck traffic off of several localities, improving the infrastructure that is taxed by Marcellus Shale drilling truck traffic.

In Lycoming County, the impact of the transportation bill can be felt in the numbers. Before the bill, the county would typically receive about $50 million every four years from the state for highway and bridge projects.

With the bill, the county will receive about $72 million within the same time period.

That money will pay for 81 projects on the 12-year program, 46 of which were made possible by the law.

Among the local projects, a key one is paving and rehabilitation work to Interstate 180 and Route 220 in Lycoming County.

Yes, the 12-cents-per-gallon gasoline and diesel taxes included in the bill are not fun to pay.

But there is a potential payoff. Hopefully, it will be obvious in a larger portfolio of road and bridge projects actually getting done.