Armstrong County may gain $2.1M for bridge, road repairs
Transportation reform across Pennsylvania could provide funding for major infrastructure repairs in Armstrong County through 2018.
State lawmakers forecasted the new transportation bill could pump an additional $2.1 million in liquid fuels funding into Armstrong County through the 2017-18 fiscal year, according to estimates provided by state Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-Ford City.
Liquid fuels funding, which the state gives to municipalities and PennDOT based on population and roadways, goes toward repairing and replacing roads, bridges and highways.
The additional funding affords municipalities, PennDOT and the Armstrong Conservation District with enough funding to begin repairing approximately 32 structurally deficient bridges and miles of highways, municipal roadways and rural roads throughout Armstrong County, Pyle said.
“The funding increase is significant,” Pyle said. “We are going to get a hell of a lot of work done.”
House Bill 1060, on which Pyle is listed as the primary sponsor, passed with a 113-85 vote in the House on Nov. 21 and was signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday. It eliminates the 12-cent liquid fuels tax attached to each gallon of gasoline pumped in Pennsylvania on Jan. 1.
It shifts the current liquid fuels tax into the oil company franchise tax, which is based on the wholesale price of gasoline. Motorists will see a 5-cent tax to cover the oil company franchise tax, which, over the next five years, could climb up to 28 cents a gallon, Pyle said.
State officials expect the tax shift to generate about $2.3 billion for road and bridge repairs during the next five years, allowing them to increase local liquid fuels funding by up to 60 percent per community, Pyle said.
“We're asking people to invest in Pennsylvania's infrastructure over the course of the next five years,” Pyle said. “We have to come up with the money somehow, because it's crumbling.”
According to forecasted liquid fuels fund distributions, supplied by Pyle, the 45 municipalities in Armstrong County received $3.4 million during the 2013-14 fiscal year. He expects the contribution to climb by 12 percent, to approximately $3.8 million, during the 2014-15 fiscal year.
State lawmakers expect to distribute $5.2 million in liquid fuels funds to Armstrong County's 45 municipalities during the 2017-18 fiscal year, which is an increase of $1.2 million, or approximately 53 percent, from the 2013-14 fiscal year.
“We're going to finally be able to start fixing stuff, instead of just patching it,” Pyle said.
Along with liquid fuels funding, Pyle said, the bill increases funding to maintain dirt and gravel roadways. Armstrong County features the second-highest number of dirt and gravel roads in the state, he said.
Dave Rupert, manager of the Armstrong Conservation District, said the new transportation bill will help officials repair and maintain dirt and gravel roads across the county.
Statewide, Pennsylvania's conservation districts operated under a $4 million budget, Rupert said. Under the new transportation bill, the statewide conservation district budget jumps to $35 million, with $28 million dedicated to the dirt and gravel road program, he said.
The remaining $7 million will be dedicated to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, for forestry, parks and lesser-traveled roads, Rupert said.
According to Gregg Smith, the dirt and gravel road specialist at the Armstrong Conservation District, the district spent approximately $700,000 on 69 dirt and gravel road projects since 1997.
About 495 miles of roadway are dirt roads in Armstrong County, Smith added.
Typically, a dirt or gravel road project costs between $10,000 and $15,000, Smith said.
Each year, the Armstrong Conservation District dedicates approximately $100,000 to the dirt and gravel roads program, which is expected to grow tenfold, to approximately $1 million, Rupert said.
“We should receive that, if the bill continues to stand as it does right now,” Rupert said. “This is the greatest expansion of the program I've ever seen, and a marked funding increase won't just benefit us, but it will benefit all 66 conservation districts across the state.
“This bill is going to allow us to actually take on projects, do them right and not just put a Band-Aid on things anymore.”
Smith, who is also a township supervisor in Rayburn, said the transportation bill is going to provide a systemic, top-to-bottom funding method to improve infrastructure across the county.
“As a township supervisor, this is a godsend, because people are going to see roads being fixed in front of their houses,” Smith said. “It not only helps people living in large cities – this bill is going to provide enough funding that everyone will see roads being fixed directly in front of their house.”
Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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