Transportation law hailed as bipartisan victory

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Drivers who cringe at traveling over the region's creaky bridges and crumbling roadways can begin to relax next year, when repairs will begin under a $2.3 billion transportation funding plan signed into law Monday by Gov. Tom Corbett.

Mr. Corbett, who first signed the legislation in State College and Norristown, Montgomery County, then traveled to Pittsburgh to praise the bipartisan cooperation that made passage possible, strengthening the transportation system and making business investment and job creation more likely, he said.

"I believe transportation connects us in ways we don't always fully understand," Mr. Corbett said, flanked by dozens of local officials, state lawmakers, construction company owners and hard-hatted workers at an event beneath the peeling, rusting hulk of the 85-year-old Liberty Bridge. "This bill has connected us in other ways -- it has connected us across party lines because these members understand there are no Republican bridges and no Democratic bridges."

Gov. Corbett talks about benefits of transportation bill

Gov. Tom Corbett was in Pittsburgh today to talk up the recently passed transportation bill and the improvements it will bring to the state's highways and bridges. (Video by Nate Guidry; 11/25/2013)

While state transportation officials declined to point to a top priority for local repairs, the Liberty Bridge is definitely on the to-do list. The bridge is in need of rehabilitation estimated to cost $40 million to $60 million and received weight limit restrictions this year because of structural deficiencies.

Additional projects that will be completed because of the additional transportation funding include:

* Rehabilitating the Birmingham Bridge for $34 million.

* Reconstructing pavement and preserving bridges along 8 miles of the Beaver Valley Expressway, from the Business 60 Interchange to the Flaugherty Run Interchange, for $87 million.

* Preserving pavement and bridges along a nearly 7-mile stretch of Route 28 from Russelton to the Butler County line for $24 million.

* Preservation painting and repairing the Port Authority of Allegheny County's Panhandle Bridge, which carries light rail cars between Downtown and the South Side, for $20 million.

The funding also eliminates the need for cuts to mass transit lines operated by the Port Authority for the next decade. State and local officials agreed on a stopgap measure last year, including a $35 million infusion from the state, to prevent extensive service cuts but insisted the system needed more stable long-term funding going forward.

The authority has not yet received estimates of how much funding it will receive from the state, but the chaos of continual threats to cut service and hike fares appears to be over, said county Executive Rich Fitzgerald. That stability, he said, will help the local economy grow.

"So for the next 10 years, people in Allegheny County and southwest Pennsylvania know if they invest in a business in the region, the buses are going to be there," he said.

Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: 412-263-1719 or First Published November 25, 2013 7:07 PM

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