New Castle News

Closer Look

March 6, 2014

County asking to divert state bridge money

NEW CASTLE — Lawrence County has an accumulation of state funds designated for its bridges that it cannot spend.

It wants to share those funds for local road repairs, but cannot use the money — more than $600,000 — for that because the funds are restricted by a law enacted in 2007, and can be used only as a county match for county-owned bridge projects.

The county has not used the money, because another law adopted more than a decade earlier precludes it from having to pay a local match for bridge projects.

It will require a legislative act to free the funds for a different use, according to Commissioner Steve Craig, who would like to share the money with local municipalities to fix local roads that were severely damaged by this year’s harsh winter.

This week, Craig composed a letter to all state legislators representing Lawrence County, asking for new legislation that would allow that bridge money to be diverted for local road repair instead.

His fellow commissioners, Dan Vogler and Robert Del Signore, gave their blessings for him to send it.

The county does not own or maintain roads. However, it owns 27 bridges.

Act 44 of 2007 created a funding stream from 1 percent of the Oil Company Franchise Tax receipts for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s restricted revenue bridge program. The law restricts use of that money by counties as a local match to repair or replace thousands of county-owned bridges statewide that had been identified as structurally deficient, Craig said.

Earlier legislation, Act 26 of 1991, relieves counties from paying any local match for bridge projects, he noted.

As a result, many recent bridge repairs and replacements have been done in Lawrence County with 100 percent federal and state a funding and no local match. Meanwhile, the county’s Act 44 money pot grew.

The money is in a separate account at ESB Bank, Craig said. “It’s designated only for bridge repair and only our bridges.”

Vogler suggested Craig send copies of the letter to the chairmen of the state House and Senate transportation committees.

Craig said he also will send copies to Dan Cessna, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s district engineer, and to the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission and the Northwest Pennsylvania Commission. Lawrence County is a member of both planning organizations.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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