Daily Dirt

Pennsylvania Receives More Than $1 Billion For Transportation Projects

On Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) released the final list of highway and bridge projects funded by $1.03 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). PennDOT also released a list of $1.8 billion in projects already scheduled to go to contract in 2009.

Governor Ed Rendell (D-PA) signed documents Tuesday certifying that more than $1 billion in federal stimulus funds will be used for these transportation projects that have been vetted by local and state officials, deemed worthy of public investment and in compliance with federal highway standards.

The stimulus appropriation for highways and bridges, combined with the $1.8 billion in federal and state funds for similar ongoing projects, represents the most PennDOT has ever committed to construction in a single year.

“My signature on these letters represents relief and recovery for thousands of Pennsylvania families who may have been losing hope – wondering from where and when their next paycheck would come,” Governor Rendell said. “It is not every day that I get to sign letters that will put some 10,000 workers who were recently laid off back to work.

“I am proud that Pennsylvania is ahead of the curve and ready to make President Obama’s stimulus program a reality in our communities – and this is just the beginning.”

Robert Latham, a lobbyist for Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, said the highway construction trade group estimates that 8,000 to 10,000 construction jobs would be required for the stimulus projects. Biehler said hiring in related activities could push the total to roughly 30,000 jobs.

The Governor said that in transportation, every $1 billion of new spending creates approximately 30,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“In roughly 90 days, thousands of Pennsylvania workers will be packing a lunch again and reporting to work to repair bridges, roads and tunnels in every corner of our state,” the Governor said.

The letters signed by Gov. Rendell clear the way for the transmission of ARRA transportation funds to the commonwealth.

The more than 240 projects call for repairs and improvements to 608 miles of highway and 399 bridges, including an 80-year-old bridge near Carlisle that Vice President Joe Biden inspected in February to drum up congressional support for the $787 billion stimulus bill.

“PennDOT is going to drive a very powerful economic engine” that will speed economic recovery, said state Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler.

The task of soliciting bids and awarding contracts for the stimulus projects has already begun. Projects eligible for stimulus money had to be near shovel ready. They are required to be under way within a year, but PennDOT is shooting for six-month start dates for stimulus projects, with completion in about a year, in hopes of quickly jump-starting the economy.

“More of these contracts will be put out for bid each week,” Biehler said. “We will work with contractors and the Federal Highway Administration to get the work started as quickly as possible to get people working and material orders flowing. Tens of thousands of jobs and the state’s economic recovery are riding on our efforts and we simply will not fail the people of Pennsylvania.”

Construction workers are not the only ones who will benefit. Support industries ranging from machine manufacturers to restaurants could see the money trickle down from the projects.

“This plan will not just improve infrastructure but create jobs. We want to make a difference to the people of Pennsylvania,” Biehler said.

Biehler will visit other areas of the state in coming weeks to highlight projects on the federal recovery funding list.

Under Gov. Rendell’s Rebuild Pennsylvania program, approved as part of the 2008-09 state budget, a combination of federal and state funds will underwrite repairs to 411 bridges in the state transportation improvement program.

Bridge investments in Pennsylvania have more than tripled in the past six years; growing to approximately $1 billion in 2008-09, compared to $259 million in 2003.

In the Philadelphia region, the project with the biggest price tag – $66 million – is preservation work that will be done to the Girard Point Bridge in the city.

Monroe County projects promised through ARRA total $31 million, mostly bridges along Interstate 80. (pictured is the overpass at the Delaware Water Gap interchange of Interstate 80 – photo by Keith R. Stevenson/Pocono Record)

Other projects include:

  • $25 million for the Marshalls Creek traffic relief project. That is enough money to finish the project, which is currently in the final engineering phase. Contractors will be able to bid on the off alignment portion of the project as soon as late fall
  • $46 million for the relocation of a railroad and other preparations for the widening of state Route 28 in the Pittsburgh area
  • $177,650 for a pedestrian and bike path along route 423 in Tobyhanna
  • $101,382 to the Pocono Pony for bike racks and bus shelters at 12 locations around East Stroudsburg. There are also some bridge replacements, road resurfacing and guard rail construction projects included on the list
  • $1,800,000 to replace strip seal dams and make repairs to deck, beam ends, fatigue cracks, concrete beams and headwalls of various State Route bridges in Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties
  • $16,660,000 goes to work on route 2001, known locally as Milford Road, for the section between Route 209 to Township Route 337 and Little Egypt Road
  • $34 million which will help pay for reconstruction of a four-mile stretch of the Blue Route, between the turnpike interchange and the Schuylkill River crossing

(Note: Pennsylvania has now been added to the State-by-State Spending list in the sidebar)

Co-Chairs Of Building America’s Future Meet With President

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D) and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), his co-chairs in
the Building America’s Future coalition, (see sidebar) met with President Barack Obama at the White House yesterday to discuss their concerns about improving roads, bridges and other infrastructure, including how to shore up federal spending on transit systems and renewable energy projects.

The group encouraged a new era of infrastructure investment in the United States, noting that a visionary national infrastructure policy can play a central role not only in fostering immediate job creation but also in establishing long-term U.S. economic competitiveness, addressing global warming and our dependence of fossil fuels, improving national security and enhancing quality of life and safety across the nation.

After the meeting, Schwarzenegger said the trio let the president know that “we are 100 percent behind him on this, to go out and to sell this to the American people.

“I think there is a tremendous demand out there for this,” he said. “Not only does it help us make our economy function better, but also it helps us in creating jobs.”

“Not only would greater, sustained investment in our nation’s ailing infrastructure create jobs immediately, it would also establish long-term economic competitiveness, address our environmental needs, and enhance the quality of life across our nation,” said Gov. Schwarzenegger. “California knows first-hand from our Strategic Growth Plan that there are vast benefits to focusing on infrastructure, which is why we are aggressively pushing for long-term federal investment in our nation’s infrastructure needs.”

Every billion dollars spent on infrastructure can create up to 25,000 new jobs, Schwarzenegger said. But in order to get there, he said, Democrats and Republicans have to work together, no matter what the party line.

“The President gets it,” Bloomberg said. “This is about the future of our country, whether it’s about transportation or water, all the things we need to invest in so that our grandchildren will have a future.”

The mayor said the group pledged to do everything they could to ensure the President gets the support he needs.

“This is a time to think boldly and to bring about the change that this country needs,” Bloomberg said. “I think that we have a new President that has the enthusiasm, and the intellect and the drive to get this done.”

Rendell says they also talked about creating an “infrastructure bank,” an idea Obama endorsed as a candidate. Such a bank would raise money for major national projects by issuing bonds that could be leveraged into even more funding.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates the nation’s infrastructure still stands at a D average. Deteriorating conditions and inflation have added hundreds of billions to the total cost of repairs and needed upgrades from all levels of government and the private sector in the next five years alone. ASCE’s current estimate is $2.2 trillion, up from $1.6 trillion in 2005.

Additionally, the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission recommends significantly increasing investment in surface transportation, including investing $225 billion over the next 50 years to upgrade transportation systems needed to sustain economic growth.

For more information on the infrastructure needs of the nation please visit Building America’s Future, a bipartisan coalition dedicated to smart infrastructure investment – energy systems, roads and bridges, mass transit, water and sewer systems, rail, ports, airports, levees and dams, schools and housing – to enhance the quality of life and safety of our communities, create jobs, and promote energy independence.

Greg Sitek

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