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PennDOT paring road project list

| Friday, March 30, 2012

The state's highway budget has been slashed so drastically that PennDOT expects to award $99 million on new road and bridge contracts in Westmoreland and Fayette counties this year, down from $210 million two years ago, officials said on Thursday.

PennDOT's District 12 anticipates awarding contracts for 36 projects this year, down from 55 projects in 2010, Rachel Duda, assistant executive for design, told about 50 state and local officials at meetings in Westmoreland and Fayette counties.

District 12, which covers Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties, has "a very large portfolio of projects," with significantly less money available, Duda said during the annual update of projects given in separate presentations for each county,

The district anticipates getting $350 million for fiscal years 2013 to 2016, down from $509.2 million for fiscal years 2011 to 2014. The allotment for 2009-12 was $680 million.

"We need to pick the very best projects," Duda said at the presentation at Westmoreland County Community College.

District 12 had put about 70 percent of its funding toward repairing structurally deficient bridges in recent years.

That has left 26 percent, or 616 of the region's bridges, in poor condition in 2011.

In 2008, 30 percent of the bridges, or 713, were deemed structurally deficient.

With the average age of state bridges at least 51 years old, those remaining structurally deficient bridges have deteriorated from fair to poor condition, Duda said.

"We can't continue to do that because the revenue is not there. We don't have enough money to do everything," said Joseph Szczur, District 12 executive director.

Funding for 2012 will be evenly divided between bridge and road projects, because after the focus on bridges, "roads are now deteriorating exponentially," Szczur said.

Westmoreland County

The economy requires extending paving life cycles by repairing cracks and then sealing the roadways, said Tim Cook, PennDOT's Westmoreland County maintenance director. The state expects to seal 200 miles of roads in Westmoreland this year.

"Without seal coats, our (highway) system would be a complete shambles," Cook said.

PennDOT anticipates that contractors will pave 16 miles of highway in the county this year.

Among the major projects in Westmoreland County are:

-- Routes 119 and 819 interchange and ramp improvements in East Huntingdon, at a cost of $20 million to $25 million.

-- The $26 million Charleroi-Monessen Bridge project, expected to be completed in March 2013.

-- The $23.7 million Interstate 70 interchange project at the Smithton exit, on schedule for completion in August.

-- Repaving Route 30 from Toll Road 66 to West Penn Power's service center in Hempfield, for $7.9 million.

-- Paving a section of Route 66 north of Delmont, scheduled for June.

-- Replacing the Trafford Bridge carrying Route 130 over Turtle Creek and Norfolk Southern Corp. railroad tracks for $10 million, with completion expected in October 2013.

Work includes contracts for downtown West Newton street improvements to be awarded in December. A $60 million project to improve the Interstate 70 ramps at New Stanton should be awarded in June 2015, and $14 million in improvements to Route 981 at Kennametal Inc.'s headquarters in Unity will wait until 2016.

Fayette County

During the meeting at Penn State, The Eberly Campus, PennDOT representatives said the state plans roadway improvement projects on Route 40, from Wild Side Restaurant to Flat Rock Road; Route 119/3019 from Judith Street to the bridge over Route 43; Route 4406 from Route 40 to Matthew Drive; and Route 857 from White House to Nolan's Bar.

The state also intends to apply a seal coating to 154 miles of Fayette County roads at a cost of $2 million.

"It's really the lifeblood of some of the work we do in Fayette County," said Chris Sleighter, Fayette County maintenance manager.

The work encompasses the county's northwest quadrant, north of Route 21 and west of Route 51, Sleighter said. It is expected to begin in early May and end by June 30.

Other projects in Fayette County are:

-- Replacing the Masontown Bridge, a $53 million project with an October 2014 completion date.

-- Four bridge replacement projects totaling $4 million on Route 381 in Stewart; Route 982 in Bullskin; and Route 4008 between Republic and Fairbank.

-- Maintenance of bridges on various roads at a cost ranging from $1 million to $5 million.

-- Resurfacing and milling approximately 3 miles of Route 51, from Route 201 to Randall's Restaurant.

Throughout the district, projects in the $500,000 to $1 million range include bridge bearing cleaning, guiderail repair/replacement, streetscape improvement along Market Street in Brownsville, replacement of Grant Street Bridge over Redstone Creek in South Union, and signal replacement, upgrading of signal intersections and signal removal.

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