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Some road, bridge projects nearly complete

| Saturday, April 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Road and bridge projects expected to soon reach completion, as well as those expected to launch, highlighted Thursday's community outreach meeting, hosted by PennDOT District 12.

Statewide, the agency is awaiting adoption of the state budget for long-range planning.

Gov. Tom Corbett's transportation plan proposes decreasing the flat tax portion of the state gas tax by nearly 17 percent and uncapping over five years the $1.25 ceiling on the Oil Company Franchise Tax.

Investment funding could reach $1.8 billion by the fifth year, for projects ranging from state and local roads and bridges to public transportation and Turnpike expansion.

New funding could mean the difference between losing 12,000 or gaining 50,000 transportation industry jobs statewide, said Joseph Szczur, PennDOT District 12 executive.

District 12 anticipates awarding contracts for 49 projects this year, up from 36 in 2012.

Contracts are estimated at $115 million, up from $99 million in 2012.

Several dozen PennDOT, municipal government representatives and members of the public attended the meeting, held at Penn State Fayette, the Eberly Campus.

District 12 — which consists of Fayette, Westmoreland, Greene and Washington counties — received $385 million for its Transportation Improvement Projects for 2013-16. The money includes $173 million for bridge projects (49 percent of the spending); $171 million for roadway projects (41 percent); with the remainder for earmarks, rail road and miscellaneous projects.

TIP funding for 2011-14 was $509 million, down from $680 million in 2009-12.

“We have almost been cut in half from four years ago,” said Gary Barber, PennDOT design portfolio manager.

Significant county projects reviewed on Thursday include a $15 million plan to widen Route 21 and add a center turning lane at the Thompson Crossing.

A safety project to relocate Dearth and Canistra roads and widen Route 40 at the Torchlight intersection is estimated at $3 to $5 million.

Another safety project will relocate the south leg of Route 381 and widen Route 40 for left turn lanes, also estimated to cost $3 to $5 million.

All projects are expected to be bid in 2014.

Work continues on the $49 million Masontown Bridge replacement project, expected to be complete in October 2014.

PennDOT intends to apply a seal coating to 156 miles of Fayette County roads at a cost of $1.5 million in May and June.

Work is planned east of Route 51 and north of Route 40, said Chris Sleighter, Fayette County maintenance manager, in communities including Vanderbilt, Dawson, Connellsville, Normalville, Indian Head and Mill Run.

“We do have potholes, but nowhere near what they used to be,” Sleighter said.

Robb Dean, traffic manager, discussed PennDOT's Interstate Intelligent Transportation System.

Launched in 2007, the program provides real-time information to motorists.

What began with six portable Dynamic Message Signs has grown to a current $10 million project including 65 miles of fiber optic lines, a wireless communication network, additional Dynamic Message Signs and 21 cameras.

That project is 95 percent complete, Dean said.

Barber also discussed roundabouts (circular intersections without traffic signals), under design in Westmoreland and Washington counties and expected to expand in the area.

The design can reduce collisions and motorist fatalities, Barber said, through lowered speed and elimination of head-on traffic.

PennDOT statistics show 120 motor vehicle fatalities were reported in District 12 in 2012, with 20 in Fayette County.

An agency goal is to reduce fatalities and major injuries by 50 percent over the next two decades, community relations coordinator Valerie Peterson said. PennDOT works with police departments and schools on issues including aggressive driving enforcement and speeding, as well as seatbelt useage.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or

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