AS I SEE IT: Transportation funds vital to region
December 15, 2013 1:59 AM

As a former PennDOT assistant press secretary, and now as the president of the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce, I can say without hesitation that the importance of transportation funding cannot be overstated.

Not only will it allow Penn-DOT and local municipalities to make vital improvements to our bridges and roadways, it will create and sustain jobs while ensuring our goods and services can reach their destinations without undue prohibition.

When House Bill 1060 was passed to provide $2.3 billion in transportation funding, I literally breathed a sigh of relief. I have seen the substructure of many bridges in Pennsylvania. If you aren’t concerned about our bridges, you should be. While many appear fine from above, they are not. Excessive deterioration, corrosion, wear and tear and age have had serious impacts on our bridges. When you stand under a bridge and see chunks of concrete falling off, it will open your eyes. Without this additional funding, it was only a matter of time before more serious problems arose.

The decision to fund transportation will directly enhance our local communities. Here in Indiana County we will see more than $500 million in critical maintenance and capital improvements, including much needed projects on Route 422, 119, 22 and 286.

Some key projects include:

• Extending Rose Street from Oakland Avenue to Philadelphia Street.

• Increasing sight distances to improve safety on Route 422 in Armstrong Township.

• Reconstructing Route 56 to improve safety near United High School.

The legislation will also help alleviate the infrastructure burden on local municipalities by providing an additional $220 million a year in Municipal Liquid Fuels Program (MLFP) allocations statewide in five years. Liquid fuels funding for Indiana County municipalities is expected to increase by $2.48 million by Fiscal Year 2017-18.

This investment in transportation is long overdue. I have sat in meetings with PennDOT engineers faced with very difficult decisions because there simply wasn’t enough money to address crucial infrastructure needs. Do you fix a potholed, crumbling roadway or Band-Aid a bridge so school buses don’t need to detour? Thankfully now, many of those unmet needs can be addressed.

During my time with PennDOT, I heard many people say the funding wasn’t needed for a mismanaged department.

Personally, I know PennDOT employs some of the best engineers and quality people anywhere. They work hard with a truly conscientious attitude about the responsibilities entrusted to them.

The department has grown more efficient and fiscally constrained; they will use this additional funding wisely for the greatest, positive impact to our transportation infrastructure.

From a business perspective, imagine the impacts on trucking companies and manufacturers if they could not use a bridge near their business and had to detour.

The costs in time and fuel could well be great enough to put them out of existence and many people out of work. With this new funding, scenarios like that will be reduced.

We must give credit to local legislative leaders for their support. State Sen. Don White and state Reps. Dave Reed, Sam Smith and Jeff Pyle understand the need for funding and economic benefits it will create.

While everyone will contribute on some level toward additional transportation funding, it is an investment that will pay dividends for our community, economy and overall quality of life — an investment we must make for the present and future good of all.

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