PennDOT project list doesn't sway tax, fee hike opponents
The hefty project to-do list PennDOT announced this week for Western Pennsylvania didn't sway critics of the state's transportation law that hikes vehicle-related fees and wholesale gas taxes to pay to fix aging infrastructure.
“(My opposition) didn't have anything to do with the list of projects. Everybody on the planet wants good and safe bridges. The question was how we're going to pay for it,” said state Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick, who voted against the law. His district is the recipient of one of the largest local projects — a $42 million rehabbing of the Birmingham Bridge.
“I was a proponent of paying for it by other means, such as increasing impact fees on Marcellus shale drilling and putting it toward transportation.”
Still, supporters of the new law, including several local officials and trucking groups, applauded the large list, saying it's a step in the right direction and that the extra fees are necessary to pay for it.
PennDOT's local list is highlighted by the Birmingham Bridge project, a $51 million Parkway West project and work involving more than a dozen small overpasses. Larger weight-restricted bridges, such as the Liberty Bridge and Elizabeth Bridge, did not make this year's list.
“Both Liberty and the Elizabeth Bridge are currently under design. Even if I wanted to start constructing them this year, the designs aren't physically complete,” said PennDOT District 11 Executive Dan Cessna, whose territory includes Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties.
Gene O'Sullivan, CFO of the Jeannette-based Elliott Group, which manufactures 185,000-pound turbines and compressors, said his deliveries must travel an extra 400 miles on occasion because of Pennsylvania's weight-restricted bridges. He supports the new funding law.
“We understand it's going to be a multi-year improvement project. The damage was done over many years. We don't have strong feelings about one project, it's just that we get more options when the road improves, when the bridge improves,” O'Sullivan said. “We're very glad the state is addressing the problem. We supported the whole picture. We understood it had to be paid for.”
The to-do list includes projects across the region, such as $1.59 million for two small bridges on Sunset Drive over Pike Run in West Pike, Washington County.
“My goodness, one of those bridges was down to 3 tons (weight limit). Any improvement will help us out,” said West Pike supervisor Richard Molish, who worried that weight-restricted bridges would hamper growth from Marcellus shale drilling. “Whatever it takes to get things improved here.”
Westmoreland County Commissioner Tyler Courtney praised the projects set to break ground there, including $10.5 million in road improvements in Rostraver and $13.5 million for 40 miles of surface improvements on several state roads in 14 municipalities, but was noncommittal on whether he supported the funding source.
“The projects are a great thing,” Courtney said. “I do support transportation funding, but there were some polarizing views on how to make that happen. Was it worth it? I don't know yet. With the taxes from gas and fees, we haven't felt the impacts yet. There's some realistic gray area.”
For state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, there is no gray area. He thought PennDOT should pay for road and bridge repairs out of existing funding.
“More road and bridge projects doesn't change my belief that it was unnecessary,” Metcalfe said. “PennDOT receives a lot already.”
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- The Progress Fund awarded $2M federal grant
- Conservative legislator puts credentials on line in bipartisan medicinal marijuana effort
- Demand for truck drivers soars in Western Pennsylvania
- Poll shows Wolf’s lead over Corbett widening
- Newlyweds guilty in Craigslist killing
- Unusually cold winter, spring reduces population of Western Pa. stink bugs
- Blair County judge rejects Kenney appeal
- Pennsylvania investigators get truck to aid in finding child predators