Route 22 Project Illustrates Funding Woes

August 25, 2009

The news that PennDOT may abandon plans to widen Route 22 in the Lehigh Valley in favor of improving two interchanges is a microcosm of what is occurring throughout Pennsylvania and the nation.

Although PennDOT officials would not confirm that the Route 22 project is off the table, many local leaders who are close to the transportation planning process say they’re convinced its demise is a foregone conclusion.

“This is further verification of what we have been seeing in the last several years,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “If there isn’t enough money currently to maintain existing bridges and highways, projects that would relieve congestion by adding new capacity won’t move forward either.”

Although the transportation component of the federal stimulus package has helped the highway construction industry avert a disastrous construction season this year, the one-time nature of the program and the need to focus on “shovel-ready” projects would not allow for capacity expansion.

Moreover, the rejection of tolling on Interstate 80 will reduce available highway funds by about $300 million in the state’s 2010-11 fiscal year, and the Obama administration is now calling for an 18-month delay in reauthorizing the federal highway funding measure.

“All of this has combined to make next year’s construction season extremely unpredictable,” Wagner said. “Although highway construction projects create jobs and provide major economic benefits, those things will not occur until future funding is stable and predictable

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