PA: State Pumps Additional Dollars Into Long-Range Transportation Plan

Aug. 17--Increased gasoline taxes and driver and vehicle fees will fuel a 50 percent increase in funding for state highway, bridge and transit improvements over the next dozen years.

A new long-range transportation plan adopted by the State Transportation Commission on Thursday anticipates $63.2 billion for improvements statewide through 2026. That's up from $41.6 billion anticipated in the last plan update two years ago.

Priority projects in the new long-range plan include Interchange Road improvements, improvements to the northern intersection of Routes 19 and 97 in Waterford and replacement of Meadville's Mead Avenue Bridge.

The plan additionally anticipates funding for backlogged bridge and paving projects, said Jim Carroll, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in northwestern Pennsylvania.

"It really opens the door to catching up on projects that we haven't been able to address, and includes not only maintenance and repairs but many road and bridge improvements," Carroll said.

Interchange and Zimmerly roads will be widened to ease congestion near the Millcreek Mall. The $12 million to $14 million project additionally will include a center turning lane on the Interstate 79 bridge, a right-turn lane for eastbound traffic entering Route 99, and a new bridge over Walnut Creek west of the interstate.

Construction is scheduled for 2016 and 2017.

The plan also lists improvements to the northern intersection of Routes 19 and 97 in Waterford as a priority project, for completion by September 2018. Options to improve the intersection include a second roundabout. The region's first roundabout is under construction at the southern intersection of the two roads, in Waterford Township.

Replacement of the Mead Avenue Bridge is another priority in the new long-range transportation plan. The bridge connects downtown Meadville with Vernon Township but has been closed since March 2007 due to deterioration and safety concerns.

Other priority projects include Bayfront Parkway restoration and improvements to Route 5 in Erie and west Erie County, Route 20 in east Erie County, and Sterrettania Road between Interstate 90 and Grubb Road.

Transit priorities include new buses, parts and equipment for the Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority and a new storage facility and vehicles for the Crawford Area Transit Authority.

The Erie Metropolitan Planning Organization and counterparts across the state worked with PennDOT to update the 12-year plan. It will be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration for approval.

Highway funds are distributed statewide using a formula that considers population, lane miles and vehicle miles traveled. Bridge funds are distributed based on the condition of each region's bridges.

VALERIE MYERS can be reached at 878-1913 or by e-mail. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNmyers.

Copyright 2014 - Erie Times-News, Pa.

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