HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The first projects that will be funded by a major transportation bill could touch nearly every corner of Pennsylvania.
The bill, which Gov. Tom Corbett will sign Monday, is expected to marshal another $2.3 billion a year for transportation in Pennsylvania from higher gas taxes and motorist fees.
Most of the money will go to highways and bridges, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation could soon start repairing the Birmingham and Liberty bridges in Pittsburgh.
Corbett also suggested that PennDOT could very quickly move on projects including: widening a section of Route 22 in Allentown; rehabbing part of Route 219 near Johnstown; expanding Interstate 81 in suburban Harrisburg; resurfacing 10 miles of Route 22 in between Harrisburg and State College; upgrading Interchange Road in suburban Erie; and extending Route 424 to connect Interstate 81 to Humboldt Industrial Park near Hazleton.
Some of the pricier projects on PennDOT’s list for the next decade will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Among them are $782 million for three Interstate 83-related projects in the Harrisburg area and a $761 million relocation of U.S. Route 322 from the top of Seven Mountains to Boalsburg in Centre County, southeast of State College.
PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said each project is not necessarily pegged to a timetable, but the agency hopes to move quickly on some of the most expensive projects since the sooner the work begins, the cheaper it will be.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission plans to use an extra $86 million a year it will eventually get under the bill to accelerate the next stage of its Southern Beltway projects, completing the section of the beltway between Route 22 and Interstate 79, near Pittsburgh International Airport.
One of the first things the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority will do is replace timbers that are more than 25 years old on three bridges on the commuter rail line to Media in Delaware County, said the agency’s general manager, Joe Casey. It also will replace a fourth bridge, built in 1894, on the line near Swarthmore College, Casey said.
Ridership is rising on the line, which is in the worst condition of SEPTA’s suburban commuter lines, Casey said.
Elsewhere, SEPTA will expand parking at some stations such as Secane and 69th Street in Upper Darby, construct high-level platforms at Exton and other stations and give a face lift to the below-ground City Hall station where the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines meet.
“City Hall station dates back to 1920 and, other than a coat of paint, there’s really been very little done,” Casey said. “That should be the centerpiece of our transportation system and quite frankly it’s a disgrace.”
The new money will keep the Port Authority of Allegheny County from carrying out a reduction in its routes next year, said Allegheny County’s executive, Rich Fitzgerald.
That’s important for a growing area that wants to assure its expanding energy and technology sectors that their employees will be able to get to work, Fitzgerald said.
“There’s a lot of growth here and these companies want to know, Google wants to know, are we going to have bus service to our location in East Liberty?” he said. “For all those and the other companies, this was a huge, huge deal.”