Highway projects menu is dramatic — and necessary

Local state Department of Transportation officials have been presenting annual plans to the Sun-Gazette editorial board for more than a decade.

We are pretty certain the docket has never included a battery of major work to match this year’s, with 2019 seeing reconstruction of West Fourth Street in Williamsport, work on the Route 220 safety corridor project, improvements at the routes 220 and 405 intersection, and ongoing progress on the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway.

We are just as certain that all of this work on the major highway arteries of our region is urgently necessary.

Anyone who has traveled the country knows that Pennsylvania’s highway network lags behind that of most states in both condition and efficiency.

We are not placing blame, just stating what is eye-test obvious.

The state’s leaders and PennDOT officials are playing catch-up and doing a laudable job of it.

In recent years, the Legislature passed a highway bill geared to bringing the state’s highway system up to the level of other states. The plan, regrettably, includes one of the nation’s heaviest gasoline taxes, but we don’t know what the alternative would have been. The system is that far behind.

Unfortunately, the dramatic improvements will not happen overnight. The projects detailed above take multiple phases to complete and are happening in a state with only about a six-month road construction capability annually due to climate.

The Thruway, which now sports the beginnings of a bridge over Route 15 south of Williamsport and a dramatic scenery change, will nevertheless not be completed until 2027. The other major projects also will take multiple years. Dramatic highway work is not a moment-by-moment adventure. It takes patience from planners, engineers, highway workers and the motorists anxiously awaiting a better highway system.

But without these projects and other work outlined by highway officials, Pennsylvania will continue to have its future economic standing and quality of life threatened by a highway system that is behind the acceptance curve.