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PennDOT plans to spend funds on maintenance, not new roads

PennDOT plans to spend funds on maintenance, not new roads
PennDOT plans to spend funds on maintenance, not new roads

Pennsylvania’s failing roads system is about to get a $300 million makeover thanks to Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed transportation plan, which will most likely allocate the funds toward municipal maintenance rather than the construction of new roads. 

According to the Scranton Times Tribune, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) recently held a Focus 81 Committee meting, where DOT District 4 Director George Roberts stated that the plan could work, but even more funds may be needed. Under the current terms, a total of $1.8 billion will be spent on municipal maintenance in the next five years, however this is much lower than the estimated $3.5 billion that is needed to keep the state’s current assets working properly. 

Roberts noted that the money would be best spent by focusing on fixing ailing roads and structurally deficient bridges, rather than expanding the state’s existing transportation infrastructure. 

“Most of the work will be asset management-type work, to try and get back to an acceptable IRI (International Roughness Index) on our roadway system and continue to work on our structurally deficient bridge project,” he said.

A recent report from the Pennsylvania Transportation Funding Advisory Commission found that of the 40,000 state-owned highway miles, 8,452 have a low reading on the International Roughness Index. The reading on the index, which measures a road pavement’s smoothness, suggests these highways are in poor condition. 

If the state doesn’t pump funds into the maintenance project, this number could rise to about 17,000 by 2020. 

“Right now, we are just doing thin overlays on our roads,” said Tom Lawson of Borton-Lawson Engineering. “You are going to have to rebuild the base eventually. You just can’t put the Band-Aid on forever, or you are just going to have to do it so frequently it doesn’t matter.”

The goal of the higher transportation funding is to bring the number of highway miles that are in poor condition down below 8,000 in the next five years. 

A recent report card on Pennsylvania’s bridges found that of the 22,280 throughout the state, 27 percent are considered structurally deficient, while 17 percent are said to be functionally obsolete. 

Keeping up with municipal assets through condition based maintenance will ensure equipment is used to its full potential before being switched out. 

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