The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

September 5, 2013

Bill defines PennDOT priorities

Would mandate that money go to essentials such as bridge repairs

HARRISBURG — A state lawmaker opposed to increasing gasoline taxes has introduced a bill that would force PennDOT to focus on bridge repairs first before spending money on other things.

State Rep. Stephen Bloom, R-Cumberland, and other supporters of the legislation focused most on spending for bicycle trails as an example of spending that could be cut.

Bloom said Pennsylvania ranks 11th in the country when it comes to spending per mile of road.

“We need to prioritize spending,” said Nathan Benefield, policy director for the conservative think tank the Commonwealth Foundation. “Bloom’s bill is a great first step.”

“Essential things such as bridges must be done before nonessential things like trails get done. Trails are nice, but bridges are absolutely essential,” said Rep. Brad Roae, R-Crawford, one of the lawmakers who signed onto Bloom’s bill.

Much of the money that has gone to walking and biking trails through PennDOT has trickled down from the federal government, said Tom Sexton, regional director for the Rails to Trails Conservancy.

PennDOT’s Smart Transportation program paid for work intended to encourage people to move around in ways other than driving.

For instance, in 2011 Johnstown received $1.5 million to create a “gateway” to the downtown at the intersection of Route 56 and Main Street.

In 2011, Sunbury got just more than $1 million to improve sidewalks and slow down traffic along Wolverton Street. Two years earlier, the same pot of money paid for the construction of the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail between Lewisburg and Mifflinburg in Union County.

PennDOT has quietly stopped spending money on such efforts, said spokesman Steve Chizmar.

Any bike path projects currently in the works are being paid for with federal dollars, Chizmar said.

“In these very lean times, our focus is on the maintenance of our existing assets and trying to extend their useful life,” Chizmar said.

In that context, Bloom’s bill serves as  a precursor to the continued debate over transportation funding that will resume when lawmakers return to Harrisburg later this month.

Bloom said that his co-sponsors include almost all of the Republican House members who stepped forward to buck Gov. Tom Corbett and oppose transportation funding that depends on raising the price of gas at the pump.

The opposition from that coalition undermined efforts to get transportation funding – and an accompanying increase in fuel taxes and other fees –  passed in June.

However, the transportation bill that passed in the Senate would have provided dollars for bike paths through an $80 million to $150 million funding pot, set aside for projects other than roads and bridges. The Senate bill also guaranteed that at least $2 million a year would be spent on bike and walking trails. That earmark was pushed for by a coalition of lobbying groups, including the Rails to Trails Conservancy and other health and bicycling safety organizations.

“We’re hoping to get a balanced transportation plan, that would include walking and biking trails and on-road biking as well,” said Sexton of the rails to trails group.

“At the grassroots level, people want a comprehensive funding for transportation and we hope the Legislature listens,” Sexton said.

State Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, was the Democratic chairman of a bicyclists’ caucus formed to support funding for bike paths.

Longietti was recruited by a representative from a group lobbying to make Pennsylvania a healthier place to raise children so that fewer high school graduates fail their physicals when they try to enter military service.

Longietti said that he does not dispute that bridge repair needs to be a priority.

“We can’t continue to be No. 1 in the country in the  number of structurally deficient bridges,” he said.

But, that doesn’t mean the state ought to abandon other transportation work, Longietti said.

“To me, it’s an economic development issue,” he said. Younger workers want to live in places that are bikeable and walkable and if Pennsylvania wants to recruit and retain those types of workers, the state is going to need to invest in the infrastructure to meet their needs, he said.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • Halfway house inmates can ease back into society

    Prison life can be a time warp.
    When inmates are locked away – for months, years, decades – society moves forward: Technology evolves, major events occur, pop culture changes. From a personal perspective, families and friends live their lives: weddings, funerals, graduations, births, retirements. All the while, criminals bide their time, existing in a regimented world of cement walls and metal bars.
    Almost all of them eventually rejoin society, though.

    April 19, 2014

  • Crime board took aim at house

    Johnstown’s unemployment rate is around 8 percent.
    One-third of the city’s population lives in poverty.
    Burglaries and assaults significantly increased between 2010 and 2012. There is a thriving illegal trade in heroin and prescription drugs.
    Given those conditions, it can be challenging for Johnstown Community Corrections Center residents to find jobs when living in the facility or to avoid falling back into a criminal lifestyle upon their release.

    April 19, 2014

  • Homicides linked to center

    Three homicides that took place in Johnstown last year involved either a suspect or victim who previously resided in the Community Corrections Center.
    Police Chief Craig Foust confirmed the name of one victim, who spent almost two months in the facility on Washington Street during 2007, a time period verified by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

    April 19, 2014

  • bachota Volunteers helping to spruce up community

    Walls and ceilings inside the Cambria County Library look clean and bright with fresh new coats of paint on them.
    The work was recently done by inmates from the Johnstown Community Corrections Center.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • alanna Hartzok targets income disparity

    Alanna Hartzok described herself as being a conservative progressive.
    The Franklin County resident said she is in favor of conserving environmental resources, education opportunities, Social Security and Medicare, while wanting to progressively address wealth inequality, health care and taxation.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Schools rise to leadership challenge

    Forest Hills and Cambria Heights high school students put the spirit of healthy competition toward a good cause and picked up some lessons in leadership along the way.

    April 19, 2014

  • KATEY LADIKA Student’s photos win awards

    A Forest Hills High School junior has captured several awards in a high school arts and writing contest that has identified greats such as Truman Capote and Andy Warhol.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local briefs 4/20/2014

    April 19, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 19, 2014

  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 19, 2014

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads