A measure pushed through the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Chris Carney (D-Pa. 10) last week seems to have finally pulled the much-needed Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway (CSVT) project out of years of stagnancy, but a few essential steps are still needed before the project is finally given the green light, officials said this week.
The Appalachian Regional Commission, which includes 13 states, allocates a specific number of miles to each state for road projects to be completed. Carney included language in the Supplemental Appropriations Bill, passed by the House on Thursday, July 1, that will allow PennDOT to take miles from another Pennsylvania project and reallocate them to the CSVT.
“It’s a major step forward for the project,” said Shamokin Dam Mayor Joe McGranahan, chairman of the CSVT Project Task Force. “The biggest single problem we faced is funding, the best source for funding is to be on the Appalachian Highway Development System, and by introducing this legislation, it would make miles available to get on that program.”
Advocates of the project hope for the bill to be passed before the August Appalachian Regional Commission meeting, as a representative for Gov. Edward G. Rendell is expected to make a request for the mile reallocation.
Josh Drobnyck, Carney’s press secretary, said, “What he’s hoping will come out of the measure is the availability of significant amount of funding.”
Pennsylvania is allotted about $5 million each year through the Appalachian Regional Commission, and if the CSVT becomes an approved project, these funds will no longer be barred from use on the project.
McGranahan said he believes that if the project is approved by the Appalachian Regional Commission, PennDOT will finally have the necessary funds to finish the design work, acquire rights-of-way and allocate utilities.
“Within a year, they could actually be a ready to put a contract out for the start of the project,” he said.
The entire project consists of a 13-mile bypass that would begin at the terminus of the existing Route 11/15 bypass outside of Selinsgrove, continue through Snyder County, cross the Susquehanna River at Winfield with a river bridge and then pass through Northumberland County and Point Township to the existing four-lane Route 147, where it would connect I-180 with I-80. The first step of the project would be the construction of the river bridge, McGranahan said.
But before construction can begin, another important funding step must be taken. The CSVT is an 80/20 project; 80 percent of funds must come from the federal government, matched by 20 percent from the state.
“The state wants to use toll credits, but toll credits are not permitted to be used on Appalachian projects,” McGranahan said.
The current Highway Reauthorization Bill, passed in 2005, does not allow states to use toll credits to fund highway projects, but if this bill is amended, then the state will have the necessary funds to pay for the 20 percent.
In addition, PennDOT is still studying the corridor that Carney wants to swap out in favor of the CSVT.
“We’re in favor of trying to find ways to advance the project,” said Rich Kirkpatrick, PennDOT spokesman.
However, funding is already tight and PennDOT’s focus has been on maintaining structurally-deficient roads and bridges.
“We’ve got huge shortfalls to keep the existing system in good shape,” he said. “We did not propose this, and we’re still studying it.”
The CSVT would relieve the pressure on Routes 147 and 11/15, which see 48,000 vehicles per day.
Staff Writer Amanda Alexander can be reached at 570-742-9671 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.