Western Pa. commission pitches $4.7 billion wish list to state

| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 1:26 a.m.

A wish list the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission will send to the state Transportation Commission comprises a record $4.7 billion in projects, including more than $400 million for Mon Valley work.

The 52 percent increase in spending in the Transportation Improvement Program is a result of fees raised in the state's new transportation bill, said Joe Grata, a member of the SPC board.

Work that would be completed over the next two years must receive state commission approval, which is expected late next month.

The state maintains a 12-year plan that is updated every two years.

“Finally, residents will see not only long-overdue work on roads and bridges but also substantial progress to reconstruct I-70 to modern standards,” said Grata, a Washington Township resident.

“It appears that a fair share of gas tax money will be coming home.”

Act 89, signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett in November, includes an increase in the oil franchise gas tax at the wholesale level and across-the-board hikes on driver-related user fees such as driver's licenses and license plates.

“Finally people are getting to see how their money is being spent,” Grata said.

Much of the money will be used to maintain and upgrade Interstate 70.

The Transportation Improvement Program identifies more than $700 million for construction of the Southern Beltway from I-79 at the Washington-Allegheny county line to the Findlay Connector near Pittsburgh International Airport.

Local projects included on the Transportation Improvement Program – some of which have begun construction – are:

• I-70 projects in Westmoreland County – $57.9 million including the Route 51, Yukon and Route 31 (Mount Pleasant-West Newton) interchanges. Also, repairs to the Belle Vernon-Speers Bridge, $16.5 million.

• I-70 projects in Washington County – $226.5 million including the Bentleyville, Route 481, Route 136 and South Junction interchanges.

• Rostraver Township – resurfacing Route 136 from Route 201 through West Newton to Janice Street in Sewickley Township, $2.2 million; resurfacing Route 51 from Route 201 north to the Allegheny County line, $4.4 million.

• West Brownsville – reconstructing the bridge carrying Route 8042 over U.S. 40, $3.3 million.

• Speers – replacing the bridge carrying Route 2027 over I-70, $1.5 million.

• Carroll Township – improving the Route 88-Route 837 intersection, $2.1 million.

• Donora – resurfacing Route 837 from Second Street to Scott Street, $2.2 million.

• Perry Township – rehabilitating the Layton Bridge over the Youghiogheny River, $2 million.

• Washington Township – replacing the bridges over Downers Run and Lutz Run near Orr Farm, $5.5 million. Repair a slide, relocate a portion of Route 906 between Fayette City and Belle Vernon, $5 million.

• Brownsville – rehabilitating the historic Cast Iron Bridge over Dunlap Creek, $3.7 million.

• Elizabeth and West Elizabeth – repairing the Route 51 bridge over the Monongahela River, $17.1 million.

In addition, the Mid-Mon Valley Transit Authority is slated to receive $2.9 million to replace five 40-foot buses and to purchase a support vehicle and $6.8 million in operating assistance.

Marc Roncone is executive director of the transit authority. He joined the SPC board earlier this year and is chairman of the transit operators' committee.

Roncone said the operating assistance level for the authority remained steady. He said capital assistance is a little higher based on the need to replace some aging vehicles.

“Based on the Act 89 being passed, it appears we're finally moving in the right direction as far as getting capital items replaced and, hopefully, we can continue to move in that direction,” Roncone said.

Despite 72 comments concerning improvements to the intersection of Route 51 and Vernon Drive in Rostraver Township – more than any other project – it failed to make the list.

“As a result of the public outcry, it will get a good look at the next TIP in two years,” Grata said. “There are wish lists out there, and you always wish you could do more.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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