HARRISBURG – On Monday Gov. Tom Wolf outlined Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) plans to fix more locally-owned bridges and improve more than 1,100 miles of rural and low-volume roadway through multi-year investments included in his budget proposal released last week.
The department is implementing five-year investment programs including a Rural Commercial Routes program that will improve low-volume roads through industry partnerships and with cost-effective treatments like Recycled Asphalt Paving (RAP) and rehabilitating or replacing at least 85 municipally-owned bridges over five years.
“These investments build on the Road Maintenance and Preservation Program [Road MaP] that we started last year to increase effort on not only major routes, but also lower traffic roadways across the state,” Wolf said.
“We will leverage partnerships with local governments and private industry to bring targeted and much-needed improvements.”
The Rural Commercial Routes program will invest $200 million over the five-year period on roadways seeing, on average, fewer than 3,000 vehicles daily.
More than 360 miles will be improved in 2018-19 alone, including roadways posted with weight restrictions as well as an estimated 260 miles to be improved with lower-cost pavement treatments such as RAP.
The program will also expand cost-sharing partnerships with heavy hauling industries to improve roadways not originally designed to handle heavy vehicles, many of which are posted with weight restrictions.
Examples of industries that have previously taken part in the 50-percent cost-sharing partnership include timber, aggregate haulers, Unconventional Oil and Gas and Natural Gas and more.
“Many businesses rely on our rural roadways to transport their products,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said. “These investments will improve travel not only for these industries, but also residents.”
The administration is also expanding its focus on locally-owned bridges by rehabilitating or replacing 85 to 100 bridges over five years.
The $50 million program will add bridges to the department’s Twelve Year Transportation Program, requires no local match, and will bundle bridges for savings and efficiency wherever feasible.
The local bridge investments complement the local bridge program included in Road MaP, which makes opportunities available for counties that have taken steps to enhance their transportation networks by collecting the $5 vehicle registration fee enabled by Act 89 of 2013, the state transportation plan.
While significant progress has been made on state-owned bridges with 1,600 repaired or rebuilt since 2015, 30.7 percent of the more than 6,500 locally-owned bridges are structurally deficient compared to 12.2 percent on the state system.
“We commend the local government officials who have made investments in their communities’ infrastructure,” Richards said.
“This program will underscore our commitment to helping our local partners in our shared mission of safe, efficient travel.”
The new investments complement the improvements completed and under way across the state. PennDOT has put out 684 bridge contracts and roughly 1,400 contracts for roadway and other improvement projects worth approximately $7.5 billion since January of 2015.