Without funding, Thruway is 'in limbo'
Although Pennsylvania passed its $28 billion budget on time, the legislature recessed without acting on three key proposals by Gov. Tom Corbett - pension reform, privatization of liquor sales and a $1.8 billion transportation funding package.
Since the transportation funding bill was not passed, most of the seed money for the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway (CSVT) is not available, and, as of now, the project is at a standstill.
"We can't start without the funding, and since it was not passed, we are in limbo right now," Sandra Tosca, PennDOT District 3-0 executive, said Friday.
The 13-mile road and bridge project, expected to take 10 years to construct, would help alleviate congestion on the Routes 11 and 15 "strip" between Selinsgrove and Shamokin Dam and Route 147 in the Northumberland area.
"It (the funding bill) came through the Senate committee on second consideration, but I think we ran out of time in the House," said state Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver. "At first glance, we didn't have enough votes to get it passed."
The House leadership thought it would be better to focus on the budget proposal, she said.
Under the funding bill, Pennsylvania would have allocated $408 million from the state's motor license fund, getting its money from the state gasoline tax and motor vehicle license, registration and other fees.
The remaining $150 million in funding for the CSVT will come from the Applachian Regional Commission, which has already pledged its support for the thruway.
In an April press conference announcing the state commitment, PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch said the project is important to the economy, safety and lifestyle of the area surrounding Routes 11 and 15.
"When you're sitting in traffic on a daily basis and congestion, that's not supporting your lifestyle," Schoch said in April. "When you're waiting and you don't know how long it's going to take to get home, that's not supporting your lifestyle."
The increase in funding would come by phasing out a cap on a wholesale fuel tax over the next five years, generating $2 billion a year for highways, bridges, mass transit and other transportation programs.
Culver maintains that the purpose of the bill is not just to have the CSVT in place, but to make Pennsylvania's roads and bridges safer.
"The thruway is something we've been working on since 1997, and it will not only alleviate congestion but bring economic development as 10,000 jobs will be created to construct it," she said.
Culver added, "This bill will also result in 150 bridges in Northumberland County being rehabilitated. The cost was analyzed to be $2.50 extra spending a week for consumers, but isn't that amount worth it for safety?"
PennDOT officials said that the plans are in place, and they will act aggressively if the funding comes through.
"As I understand it, the legislature will revisit the transportation budget in September when lawmakers come back into session," Tosca said. "We will study what we need to do and go from there."
"We will be meeting in August and figuring out how to proceed," Culver said. "It's my hope that we can get this passed. If something happens to the bridge or there is a flood, there is no access in that area. There is no way we can ignore this anymore," Culver said. "Based on the letters and emails that I've received from my consitutents, many people want to see these investiments go through."