Only a handful of the 64 federally funded road and bridge projects planned for the next four years in Lycoming County are new, it was revealed Monday during a meeting of the Williamsport Area Transportation Study, or WATS, Technical Committee.
Most of the work, worth an estimated $74 million, will focus on maintaining existing roads and bridges, according to county Transportation Planner Mark Murawski.
"We're heavy on asset management," Murawski said. "That means you fix old stuff before you build new stuff."
A bridge on Route 42 near its intersection with Route 118 near Lairdsville is crumbling so much that passersby can see the rebar.
WATS is a municipal planning organization charged with identifying and prioritizing all county transportation projects. The group is comprised of local, state and county officials, including representatives of the state Department of Transportation, Williamsport Regional Airport Authority, River Valley Transit, the county planning commission and STEP Inc.
The Monday meeting was chaired by Carey R. Mullins, transportation planning specialist for PennDOT's Center for Program Development and Management.
Each year, the organization produces short-term plans that identify projects with committed funding over a four-year span.
Monday's meeting focused on federal fiscal years 2013 to 2016. The organization also updates a long-term plan that shows potential projects over 20 years.
In all, seven new projects are planned for the upcoming planning cycle, Murawski said. Most of those projects are "small potatoes," he said, meaning they are not large-scale, big-ticket projects.
One new project is a study of access points along the Route 220 corridor between Williamsport and Jersey Shore.
Although the cost of the study - about $50,000 - barely registers, cost-wise, on the funding radar screen, the study is of vital importance, Murawski said.
Traffic congestion in the corridor has been a problem for a long time, Murawski said, adding that those problems have become more severe due to truck traffic from natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale.
"The accident history along that corridor is pretty daunting," he said.
The study will be launched this fall, according to Eric High, project engineer for PennDOT District 3-0.
The plan includes about $23 million for the construction of an airport access road from the Warrensville Road- Interstate 180 interchange to the Williamsport Regional Airport.
Murawski said that project is being changed to take into account information acquired during the project's design.
"The airport access road is going to be redefined," Murawski said. "That will include improving access to the airport from the existing street system."
The road originally was intended to run along the top of a levee that will be built to protect Montoursville from flooding. The change in scope of the access road project will have no impact on the levee project, Murawski said.
"The levee can move forward regardless of whether the access road is built," he said. "The levee will be a stand-alone project based on its own merits."
A study team is being organized to recommend how to best use the committed money to improve access to the airport, he said. The recommendations require federal approval.
The change in scope was a result of the discovery that a flood of the extent of the one experienced last September would impede traffic on the road, he said.
One project on the plan is unique. That is work to a culvert on Allegheny Street in Jersey Shore.
The borough already is under way with the project and is seeking reimbursement for the work through the WATS planning process. The borough will pay for the work now and be reimbursed for the $70,000 cost of the project in 2016, according to the plan.
Michael Mausteller, District 3 planning and programming engineer, said if the borough waited until the 2016 to do the project, it would be too late.
"If they hadn't done the repairs now, (the culvert) would have collapsed," Mausteller said, adding that efforts will be made to reimburse the borough sooner.
Mausteller said that as funding becomes scarce for transportation projects, more requests for reimbursement probably will be seen.
Although the county typically receives about $50 million in funding for any given four-year planning cycle, the 2013-16 cycle takes into account additional funding that includes a $12 million Pennsylvania Infrastructure Bank loan and $1.6 million in discretionary funds provided by the state Secretary of Transportation that will be used for safety improvements at the intersection of Routes 42 and 118 near Lairdsville.
According to Murawski, "scores" of bridge projects are on the plan. Most of the projects deal with maintaining existing bridges that are "structurally deficient."
"We are probably in better shape than most counties," he said. "Between 10 and 11 percent (of the bridges) in Lycoming County are structurally deficient, compared to 25 percent statewide."
"We've done a lot of work on our bridges long before it was a priority due to the Minnesota bridge collapse," he said, referring to the collapse in 2007 of an eight-lane bridge in Minneapolis.
The plan will be available for viewing and comment from June 1 to June 30. It will be presented for adoption during a public meeting on July 6.
The plan will be displayed at the offices of the county department of planning and community development, municipal buildings, the James V. Brown Library and on the county website at www.lyco.org.
A legal ad will be posted in the Sun-Gazette detailing other sites where the plan can be viewed.