New Castle News

January 31, 2013

Township requests shale money for bridges

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — North Beaver Township could be the first municipality to spend county Marcellus shale funds earmarked for bridge repairs.

The supervisors have requested $63,000 from Lawrence County’s Act 13 transportation funds, which — by law — are to be used for rehabilitation or replacement of county and municipal bridges.

The money in the county’s fund comes from shale drilling fees, and the first allocation, which came last year, was $127,000.

North Beaver is requesting the funding as its local share for the replacements of Wampum Bridge 1 on a township road off River Road over Jenkins Run, and Wampum Bridge 2 on Old Route 18.

Both projects are on the state’s transportation improvement list and require a 5 percent township match.

Township supervisor Jerry W. Tillia wrote to the commissioners last week, saying the township has 10 bridges on the state-mandated inspection list.

“Keeping these bridges safe could become a financial strain on the township,” he wrote.

At first, Commissioner Steve Craig expressed reservations about using up that much of the Act 13 funds.

He said the state is assembling a new transportation improvement program for next year and wonders if there will be other local bridges on it that need the money, too.

“I’m reluctant to spend a lion’s share this year on one municipality.”

He asked that county planning director Amy McKinney be requested to show what other municipalities might need the money for future bridge projects.

County administrator James Gagliano explained that North Beaver’s are the only projects that require a local share.

“I want to help North Beaver, because let’s face it, they’ve done their homework and are on the transportation improvement program,” Craig said. “I think they need some help.”

He added the township is at the center of unconventional gas well drilling in the county, and “it’s a good match.”

“We want to stay ahead of the bridge situation,” he added.

Commissioner Dan Vogler, who was in Harrisburg Tuesday, commented at the meeting via phone.

“I hope we will continue to see more dollars come through in years ahead,” he said, adding that as more shale wells are drilled, the county will receive more money.

Gagliano pointed out the earliest municipal bridge projects are not on a replacement schedule until 2015. Those are in Hickory, Perry and Slippery Rock townships, he said, and require about $220,000.

Vogler said that before voting, he would like to know whether any county-owned bridges could be up for replacement where funds may be needed.

“I believe Jim told me there are none right now,” where a local match is required, Vogler said, but he wants to check with McKinney before voting.

The commissioners plan to vote on the request at their meeting Tuesday.