Township Supervisors Tout Local Benefits of Transportation Funding Law
David Sanko, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, said April 3 that townships and other local governments are already reaping the benefits of Act 89 of 2013, Pennsylvania’s new transportation funding law, less than five months after its passage.
And the timing of that law could not have been better. Sanko, who spoke alongside Gov. Tom Corbett, state Secretary of Transportation Barry Schoch, and representatives of business and labor organizations during a news conference in Harrisburg, said townships took a huge financial hit with winter storms that started early and overstayed their welcome. (See photo below.)
The costs — for salt, antiskid, overtime, and equipment maintenance — piled up as fast as the snow,” Sanko said. “And now we’re dealing with the aftermath: potholes and other road deterioration from snow, ice, and a drawn-out freeze-thaw cycle.”
In March, townships saw an 8 percent increase in their liquid fuels payments — money they use for road repairs and road-related expenses — for the first time in years. Under Act 89, that revenue is slated to increase by about 60 percent over the next five years.
Act 89 also provides for various other types of funding that will help townships improve their roads, bridges, and more. They include:
- significant boost, from $3 million to $30 million, for dirt, gravel, and low-volume roads;
- an innovative bridge bundling program and funds for traffic signal upgrades; and
- an increase in the prevailing wage threshold for road projects, which stretches dollars further and allows more projects to be completed.
“Act 89 means a lot of things to a lot of people,” Sanko said. “At the local level, as at the state level, it means safer roads and bridges, more jobs, and a better quality of life.”
He highlighted examples in two diverse townships in Franklin County. Metal Township, population 1,866, plans to use the increased funding to replace a dangerous, single-lane creek crossing, made of concrete, with a much safer two-lane, aluminum span.
And in Washington Township, population 14,009, stalled plans for a bypass could be coming back to life. The project will give motorists a way around the often-congested State Route 16, saving them time, money, and frustration.
Similar projects, on a scale from small to large, will be possible statewide.
“Timed traffic signals will keep traffic flowing, meaning fewer minutes spent waiting at red lights and less gas wasted,” Sanko said. “With better funding, roads can be constructed, or improved, based on the best design, rather than the cheapest solution.”
Those and other transportation projects will help create local jobs, too.
“Job growth will start in construction and continue in related fields,” Sanko said. “Plus, a better infrastructure is going to draw more business and industry to communities all across the state.”
Ultimately, Sanko said, Act 89 will have more impact on local transportation infrastructure than any other measure in memory.
“Townships have spent a lot of time worrying about the future of our roads and bridges, struggling just to maintain the status quo and keep residents safe without major property tax increases,” Sanko said. “Now, thanks to Act 89, they have the ability to plan for the future — and I’m very glad to say it’s looking like it will be a bright one.”
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The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors represents Pennsylvania’s 1,454 townships of the second class and is committed to preserving and strengthening township government and securing greater visibility and involvement for townships in the state and federal political arenas. Townships of the second class cover 95 percent of Pennsylvania’s land mass and represent more residents — 5.5 million — than any other type of political subdivision in the commonwealth.
PSATS Executiver Director David Sanko speaks during the PennDOT news conference held April 4, 2014, to discuss the benefits of Act 89 of 2013, Pennsylvania's new transportation funding law. Secretary of Transportation Barry Schoch and Gov. Tom Corbett are shown on the right.