The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

April 30, 2009

PennDOT works to repair, replace bridges in region

EBENSBURG — Two years ago, PennDOT officials said their focus was moving from highways to bridges.

A new list of capital improvement projects in Cambria and Somerset counties shows the agency has maintained that commitment.

Officials from PennDOT’s District 9 office and local workers met with municipal and school officials from across the two counties during separate meetings Wednesday. They outlined work for this construction season and announced next year’s projects.

“We want you to see how our priorities are set and how we spend the money. It is your money,” District 9 Executive Tom Prestash told about 25 Cambria County officials.

While materials and labor costs are growing and revenue is shrinking, plans are in the works to replace or significantly rehabilitate five bridges in Cambria County, including the Strank Memorial Bridge. The projects approach $10 million.

Also planned are three culvert replacements on Route 53 near Dysart and on Beaver Valley Road in northeastern Cambria County.

Five bridges in Somerset County will be replaced or significantly rehabilitated, including spans in Tire Hill and Central City.

Somerset will get one highway improvement project - on Route 31 near Seven Springs Mountain Resort.

“That is the only one we have planned as far as highway projects,” said Vince Greenland, assistant district executive for design.

“We’re doing a lot of bridges. We are making significant progress, and that’s good.”

For many years the focus was on highways, but with many Pennsylvania bridges more than 75 years old, there had to be a shift in priorities, Prestash said.

In 1994, 60 percent of the available transportation capital statewide went to highways. In 2009, bridges are getting about 52 percent of the funding.

Bridges and highways alike will benefit from a portion of the more than $1 billion the state is getting in federal stimulus money.

District 9, which includes the counties of Cambria, Somerset, Bedford, Blair, Huntingdon and Fulton, is getting $46 million. Prestash vows to have every dollar committed to a contractor by June.

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