Leader Times: SPC hosts public meeting to gather feedback on the Transportation Improvement Program

The road to completing transportation improvement-related projects is most crucially paved with governmental funding dollars.

Appreciation for efforts to acquire such funding from the state and federal levels, particularly as it pertains the three ongoing initiatives in Armstrong County, represented a fair portion of the detail and dialogue voiced during Tuesday’s public meeting of Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) leaders to gather feedback from county residents, which was held at Kittanning Township Volunteer Fire Dept.

“Armstrong County, per capita, had some of the worst secondary roads in the commonwealth, and over the last two years we’ve seen $5 million last year and $5 (million) coming this year … to get some funding back here,” said county Commissioner Pat Fabian, SPC chairman, in reference to the continuation of a two-year, $10 million investment in the county’s secondary road infrastructure advocated by State Sen. Joe Pittman (R-41).

The state routes targeted include 37.7 miles of passages in Burrell, Kittanning, Manor, Plumcreek, South Bend and Bethel townships.

Such action is largely dependent on needs expressed to decision-makers by members of the public, Fabian stressed.

“This feedback that we get today … this review of this TIP (2025-28 Transportation Improvement Program) is important … for us, as county commissioners, and the (state’s) southwest region, to go after state and federal dollars to improve our transportation system out there,” he added.

Active projects on the SPC’s current TIP (2023-25) in county that were initially highlighted during the event, by Ryan Gordon, SPC manager of transportation planning, included:

• Margaret Road Intersection — Reconstruction of a portion of US 422 near the intersection of SR2005 (Margaret Road/Cherry Run Road) to include the construction of a new two-span continuous steel multi-girder bridge to carry US 422 over SR2005 and a new precast concrete box culvert, with an estimated completion date of May 25, 2025, and a construction cost of $28.6 million.

“Big project, as everybody knows … we never had enough money to put a four-lane in from Kittanning to Indiana. We’re going to do safety enhancements along the Route 422 corridor,” said Harold Swan, PennDOT District 10 planning and project manager. “This happens to be an improvement to the past improvement we made, and (we’re) trying to eliminate more traffic backups. We appreciate our local representatives and senators … Sen. Pittman helped us in getting (this funding). These were not funds out of our TIP. Much appreciated, because (that would have been) a big chunk for us out of our TIP funds. That $28 million, that’s a third of our TIP funds for the year.”

  • Goheenville Dip — Safety improvements including roadway realignment, bridge replacements, continuation of a truck-climbing lane, and turning lanes at intersections along PA 66 in Boggs and Wayne townships, with an estimated completion date of Nov. 22 of this year;
  • “I think this is the beginning of good things to come,” said Swan, with regard to the enhanced potential for safety designed to ensure via the project.
  • Poverty Hill Bridge — Replacement of existing structure carrying State Route 28 over a branch of Cowanshannock Creek in Rayburn Township, as construction is in the process of being completed at a cost of $3.8 million.

Gordon added: “We are actively managing (the SPC’s current TIP) almost daily, working with our PennDOT districts and our project sponsors. We meet monthly as a transportation technical committee, which Armstrong County attends and has a vote there. We’re constantly managing this for the most efficient use of our public funds for transportation. We’re constantly adjusting things as we need.”

Funding is required to fuel all phases of each project, from study phases and preliminary engineering and all the way through construction.

PennDOT District 10 officials, along with State Rep. Abby Major (R-60) and State Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-63) and representatives of the offices of U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-15) and Pittman.

During the meeting’s public comment segment, Bradys Bend Township Supervisor Frank Bratkovich asked how realistic it is for a smaller municipality, such as the one he is elected to represent, to be eligible for funding to complete its own projects of a TIP nature.

“I’m assuming this is going to take place where the bridges are bigger — where there is more traffic,” Bratkovich added.

Gordon responded by saying the SPC tries to include, where possible, projects to improve bridges, for instance, if the need is severe.

“We work closely with PennDOT District 10’s bridge unit. They kind of have a handle on the bridges that are in the worst condition, and we try to kind of target it that way,” he said.

In terms of roadway improvements in smaller municipalities?

“Roadways? No. For roadways, our items that are on this TIP only go to the federal aid network, which is not the local system. The local system is funded through a different manner, through liquid fuels funding, to a municipality,” Gordon said.

Fitzgerald encouraged Bratkovich and other leaders in smaller municipalities “not to be dissuaded from applying.”

“Just because it might not be this program, there are multiple programs for funding roads and bridges that could be used, so we would encourage you to contact your commissioners, your state legislators, you state senators, as an elected official, to let them know of your needs, and that you want to put in for a grant, and there are ways to get there. This isn’t the only option that’s there,” Fitzgerald added.

County citizen Rick Drumm questioned where the funding was coming from, and whether the SPC officials are making it adequately known if the money is largely the result of federal infrastructure bills being pushed through by the Biden administration.

“There are a lot of pots of money that it comes from, primarily from obviously the state and federal government … our friends from PennDOT … that the legislature and the governor appropriate, and obviously out of Washington that the Congress and the President appropriate,” Fitzgerald said.

He added that a lot of the appropriated dollars, unfortunately, has been eaten up, of late, but inflation-related increases in costs to materials and other resources.

SPC’s 2025-28 TIP is detailed

The meeting was also used as a forum to provide details of a working draft of the SPC’s 2025-2028 TIP.

During the TIP period (2025-28), approximately $4.5 billion in state, federal, and local funds will be invested throughout the next four years to improve infrastructure/transportation system throughout the next several years in Armstrong County and 10 other counties in the SPC-represented region.

The event served as part of a public comment period to gather feedback from the public.

The public meetings that SPC officials host are part of a 30-day public comment period.

As the region’s metropolitan planning organization (MPO), SPC officials are responsible for drafting the region’s long-term and short-term transportation plans, in conjunction with leaders of member counties and the state’s department of transportation (PennDOT).

As part of the SPC’s work, its officials develop a Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) that provides Southwestern Pennsylvania with specific infrastructure and transportation initiatives that need addressed throughout the next 25 years.

The LRTP is implemented with a series of shorter-term investment plans, or TIPs.

During the TIP period (2025-28), over $4.5 billion in state, federal, and local funds will be invested to improve our region’s transportation system over the next four years.

Editor’s note — If a member of the public was not able to attend the meeting, but would still like to provide their opinion, they are invited to submit their comments during SPC’s public comment period (which runs until June 7). The public can submit comments by email at: comments@spcregion.org — or mail hard copy comments to Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission’s address at 42 21st St., Suite 101, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or they can compete an online comment form available at: spcregion.org/get-involved.

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