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PennDOT to tackle rural roads, locally owned bridges under Gov. Wolf's budget proposal

| Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, 4:30 p.m.
A worker inspects a structurally deficient bridge  March 23, 2017, on Route 18 in Holbrook, Pa., that is being reconstructed as part of the stateÕs rapid bridge replacement program.
A worker inspects a structurally deficient bridge March 23, 2017, on Route 18 in Holbrook, Pa., that is being reconstructed as part of the stateÕs rapid bridge replacement program.

Part of Gov. Tom Wolf's 2018-19 budget proposal would steer more money toward fixing rural, low-traffic roads and locally owned bridges, officials said.

The $33 billion budget he proposed earlier this month included $200 million for the Rural Commercial Routes program, which would focus on improving roads that carry, on average, fewer than 3,000 vehicles a day. It also would include $50 million to replace locally owned bridges without requiring a local match, meaning that a municipality could apply to have a deficient bridge it owns repaired or replaced entirely with state funding.

“We have significant needs on low-volume roadways across the state, especially in areas seeing high traffic from heavy hauling industries,” said PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt.

She said the transportation department was working to identify which roads would get priority under the program, which Wolf said would aim to fix up 360 miles of roadway in its first year.

The other part of the program would aim to tackle 85 to 100 structurally deficient, locally owned bridges by offering to repair or replace them with no local funding-match requirement.

As of Jan. 2, PennDOT listed 24 percent of the municipal- or county-owned bridges in Allegheny County were considered structurally deficient. In Westmoreland County, 36 percent of the local bridges were deficient; in Fayette 41 percent were.

Wolf said bridge projects would be “bundled,” with each contract covering multiple bridges, to seek greater efficiency and savings.

Previous local bridge replacement programs made up to $2 million available to counties that add an extra $5 to vehicle registration fees, with an additional requirement that the communities provide a 50 percent match.

The program would continue an earlier initiative to stretch paving budgets farther by using recycled asphalt paving to preserve low-volume roads and rebuild shoulders. Recycled asphalt mixes ground-up pavement millings with oil for resurfacing roads.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724 836 6660, or on Twitter @msantoni.

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