New state tax means more roads, bridges to be fixed

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For the past few years, Joseph Szczur tossed and turned as he tried to fall asleep, wondering what road or bridge project he would have to cut in the cash-strapped state Department of Transportation District 12.


Those restless nights for Szczur, district executive for District 12, and other PennDOT officials across the commonwealth should be coming to an end.


Act 89, the new transportation plan approved last year by the state Legislature, has made more than $2.1 billion available across the state for highway and bridge projects, about $600 million more than what would have been available. Szczur along with Daniel Cessna, district executive in the neighboring District 11, which includes Allegheny County, outlined the improvements the additional funds will allow.


The additional funding is coming from a tax on oil companies on the wholesale price of gas and increases in vehicle registration and driver fees.


“It has been frustrating making decisions about bad roads we weren’t going to be able to do,” said Szczur, whose district takes in Washington, Greene, Fayette and Westmoreland counties. “A lot of these roads we wanted to get to years ago, but as the money dwindled we had to try and get by with projects like crack sealing.


“We’ve been ready to go with these projects since last June, hoping for the funding,” he added. “Act 89 has been a saving grace. And this is just the start.”


In District 12, Act 89 is going allow PennDOT to address about 138 miles of surface improvements. Szczur said the district will have about $156 million to begin 50 additional projects this year.


Two different surface improvement programs are planned with Act 89 money. An estimated $14.5 million will be spent to improve 56 miles of road, including portions of routes 88, 136 and 980 in various municipalities across the county. The other surface improvement program will see approximately $2.35 million spent to improve 3.6 miles of road, including Third Street Extension, Malden Road and a small portion of Route 88 in California and Centerville.


Tentative paving limits for some of the work includes Route 88 from California to Finleyville; Route 136 from Washington to Monongahela and Route 980 from Canonsburg to McDonald.


Bridge preservation projects include Route 231 over Buck Run in Donegal Township; Route 331 (Brush Run Road) over Dunkle Run in Independence and Hopewell townships; Route 917 over the north branch of Pigeon Creek in Bentleyville; and two structures on Sunset Drive over Pike Run in West Pike Run Township. An estimated $1.59 million will be spent on these projects.


In Greene County, 22.44 miles of roads are scheduled to be done at an approximate cost of $6.5 million. Planned work includes portions of routes 18 and 88 in Cumberland, Freeport, Gilmore, Jackson and Monongahela townships as well as Carmichaels. Plans call for Route 88 to be paved from Rosedale Street to Green Valley Road and Route 18 from the West Virginia state line to Grinnage Run Road.


The number of miles of rough roads will stop increasing and the number of bridges with new weight restrictions will start decreasing with the additional paving and repairs, Cessna said.


Cessna noted that 18,000 new jobs will be created across the state this year as a result of the additional funding.


Among the projects to be done using Act 89 money include resurfacing Interstate 79 from Bridgeville to Campbells Run Road at an estimated cost of $2.5 million and reconstruction Route 50 in South Fayette township at an estimated cost of $15.1 million.


Municipalities also can expect to see and eight percent increase in liquid fuels money from the state.


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