PennDOT: County work limited this year

Cheryl Moon-Sirianni

Contracted road and bridge projects in Lawrence County are facing a meager year, limited to a budget of about $15 million, according to a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation presentation.

Cheryl Moon-Sirianni, PennDOT District 11 executive, in a virtual meeting Wednesday detailed a list of transportation improvement projects for Lawrence, Beaver and Allegheny counties, which show Allegheny County and Pittsburgh getting the lion's share of a total $241 million in new money for the 2021 construction season.

She estimated that in total, districtwide, PennDOT will be able to newly contract about 50 projects.

"It seems like a lot, and we're pretty excited about it, but we should be going out with $80 million to $100 million more," Moon-Sirianni said. "Unfortunately, Beaver and Lawrence counties won't get as much of the funding, but they are an important part of our district."

The projects for Lawrence total about $10 million less that what was budgeted last year for local road and bridge projects. 

Projects scheduled for the upcoming seasons for Lawrence County include:

•Minor work for the completion of a reconstruction project on a section of Route 224 in Mahoning and Union townships, between Carbon Micco Road and Andrews Drive. Most of that project was completed last year and includes traffic signal upgrades, new pavement markings, lighting and signs. Milling and paving and bridge preservation were done on that section last year.

•Installation of cameras on Interstate 79 in Plain Grove Township.

•Bridge replacement on Tower Road over Funk Run in Perry Township, to begin in early June. A full closure and detour will be in effect during the project, with completion expected in December.

•Replacement of the deck on Beaver Dam Road over Honey Creek in Little Beaver Township. Work is expected to begin in late July, with anticipated completion in December. The road will beclosed and a detour posted during construction.

•A group resurfacing project is planned for Route 108 (Croton Avenue), from the North Columbus Inner Belt to Hawthorne Street in the Croton area. Milling and resurfacing will be done along with drainage improvements.

A bridge on Route 168 in Lawrence County needs to be replaced, "but we don't have the funds for it this year," Moon-Sirianni said.

She summed up that four projects and 14 miles of road worth $15 million are planned for 2020-21 construction season in Lawrence County. 

In addition to the contracted projects, the local PennDOT maintenance garage is planning other upgrades to keep the roads in drivable condition.

Tar and chip operations are planned for Eastbrook-Harlansburg Road, Bryson Mill Road, Old Pittsburgh Road, Union Valley Road, Chewton-Wurtemburg Road, Bridge Street, Harmony Baptist Road,Cleland Mill Road, Mount Air Road and Industrial Street. That work is scheduled to begin in mid-August.

Local upgrades also include shoulder cutting and side dozing on many local roads, beginning at the end of April. Pipe will be replaced along various roads beginning after July 4, and base repairs will be made to a of roads in September.

With COVID having hit hard and revenues being down, road construction is taking a little bit of a hit this year, Moon-Sirianni said. "There still will be a lot of needs, and many road will be in great need of paving when we get done."

Lawrence County Commissioner Morgan Boyd, who sits on the executive board of the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission, explained Wednesday that all of the projects for Lawrence County were approved by the commission for its transportation improvement plan for upgrading, and that list was sent to PennDOT.

"Transportation has seen a significant cut in federal dollars throughout all of  the states right now," Boyd said.

PennDOT in turn has been forced to make significant cuts to transportation improvements, he said.

He noted that the condition of the majority of state maintained roads in Lawrence County have been kept up well, and that most state funding is being moved toward turnpike and interstate projects.

"Hopefully that's going to change in the future, but the short term reality is that everyone's hurting for infrastructure funding right now," Boyd said. He added  that the county's share "is proportionate to its population size."

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Debbie's been a journalist at the New Castle News since 1978, and covers county government, police and fire, New Castle schools, environment and various other realms. She also writes features, takes photos and video and copy edits.

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