The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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July 20, 2013

PennDOT pushes for road funds

JOHNSTOWN — Area business leaders and government officials can play an important role in improving area highways and bridges, PennDOT District 9 Executive Tom Prestash said this week.

“This is the group that is focused on transportation issues and sets the direction for Cambria County,” Prestash said at the Johnstown Area Transportation Study committee’s meeting.

Encouraging his fellow committee members to remain in contact with state legislators, Prestash presented maps showing highway and bridge projects proposed under three different funding scenarios on the table in Harrisburg.

Maps from PennDOT’s website, www.dot.state.pa.us, were projected for the committee during its meeting at CamTran’s Central Avenue headquarters.

The first map showed the limited projects possible under current funding streams. Route 219 South construction from Somerset to Meyersdale is not in question, the map showed.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s $1.8 billion Decade of Investment proposal would add much more work, the second map showed.

A third map showing even more work created under the state Senate’s $2.5 billion transportation bill created some discussion because it showed Route 219 North improvements and realignment between Carrolltown and Mahaffey.

“The Route 219 corridor is important,” said committee member Robert Layo, president of Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Chamber of Commerce.

“Without the funding enhancement, there is not a lot that can be done there,” Layo said. “Although there is no consensus on which plan to support, most people recognize that there is a serious need for transportation funding. It ties to economic development.”

Corbett’s plan would be funded primarily with a gradual increase in fuel tax paid at the wholesale level, accompanied by a decrease in the retail tax at the pump.

The Senate bill passed last month included the same tax changes, along with a hefty increase in fines for speeding tickets and other offenses.

PennDOT’s interactive map, Prestash said, is more than its lobbying tool for more money. The department is showing its commitment, he said.

“It really tells you the accountability factor,” Prestash said. “It tells you what we are going to do.”

The website allows users to click on each proposed project for details about the work. There are even video clips showing drive-throughs of the project sites.

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