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February 9, 2013

PennDOT secretary talks about budget proposal

NEW CASTLE — Rehabilitating Interstate 376 bridges in Lawrence County, a regional initiative, would benefit under the governor’s transportation infrastructure plan.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Barry J. Schoch addressed regional media Wednesday on Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan that would inject nearly $2 million of additional funding into the state transportation system.

“The governor’s plan is a sorely needed, common sense plan that will help us improve Pennsylvania’s infrastructure for years to come,” Schoch said. “This is a fair plan that will boost our economy and help deliver services more efficiently.”

The resurfacing of the bridges along five miles of I-376 in Lawrence County is an $18 million project that would benefit from the governor’s proposal, noted James Struzzi, a spokesman from PennDOT’s Pittsburgh office.

The work will be ongoing in northern Lawrence County, from the Mitchell Road Interchange to the Mercer County line.

Other regional initiatives that would draw dollars from the plan are the reconstructing of pavement and preserving bridges along eight miles of the I-376 Southern Expressway in Allegheny County, an $87 million venture, and the rehabilitation of the Birmingham Bridge in Pittsburgh, $34 million.

Pennsylvania’s transportation funding shortfall has resulted from inflation, reduced tax income because of more fuel efficient vehicles and decades of underinvesting, according to a news release. With its limited resources, PennDOT has been able to make progress on restoring or replacing old bridges, but it has done so at the expense of roads, the release said.

The number of roads in poor condition statewide has risen from fewer than 7,500 miles in 2007 to more than 9,200 miles in 2011.

By the fifth year of the Corbett plan’s full implementation, it is expected to provide about $250 million for transit, close to $200 million for locally owned roads and bridges, about $80 million for a multi-modal fund providing improvements to bicycle and pedestrian facilities, ports, airports and railways, about $85 million for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to pay for expansion projects and about $1.2 billion for improvements to PennDOT-maintained roads and bridges.

The plan updates a decades-old funding structure and calls for:

•Decreasing the “flat tax” portion of the state gas tax by nearly 17 percent over two years.

•Gradually deregulating and uncapping over five years the artificial ceiling on the Oil Company Franchise Tax levied on the wholesale price of gasoline;

•Creating a pool of matching funds for private or local improvements to a non-state road if the improvement benefits the state system.

•Replacing annual vehicle registrations with a two-year registration and the four-year driver’s license with a six-year license.

•And eliminating vehicle registration stickers.

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