After years of planning, construction on Lycoming County’s bridge bundling program is set to begin in April.
Seventeen municipal bridges are included in the bundling program, which is funded through a $7 million Pennsylvania Infrastructure Bank Loan, which was approved in April 2020. Payments on the loan will be made with the assistance of a $5 vehicle registration fee that the county commissioners approved in June, 2017, according to Scott Williams, transportation supervisor for the county Department of Planning and Community Development.
Over $1.7 million has been collected through the $5 vehicle registration fee so far, according to Williams. He added that those funds will be “set aside to pay for the PIB loan payments when they become due.”
“We do not anticipate any large shortfalls, but if we need to supplement the $5 fee revenue at any point to repay the PIB loan we also have a fund of Act 13 gas impact money that is restricted to bridge projects,” Williams said.
Each municipality also provides 5% in matching funds, Williams said.
Passage of the $5 registration fee drew controversy in 2017 amid concerns that not all of the funds, which are collected by the state Department of Transportation, would be returned to the county.
This came shortly after $800 million in transportation funds, which also were collected by PennDOT through Act 89, were given to help fund the the Pennsylvania State Police.
During Tuesday’s public meeting, Commissioner Tony Mussare said the county can confirm that the full amount of the fee is being used to repair the bridges.
The purpose of the bundling program is to cut down on costs incurred by the municipalities for each of their individual bridges and to make the full project eligible for more state and federal grant funds. Williams said the bundling will help save roughly 30% of the overall project costs.
Since the bridges are owned by the local townships and borough, to repair them would have likely meant increasing local property taxes.
The entire bundling program is split into four phases, with the first phase set to begin in April. This phase will include construction on four bridges in Eldred, Hepburn, Muncy and Limestone townships.
Design work will begin for phases two and three later this summer and construction on phase two will begin in the spring of 2022. Design work for the last phase will begin in fall, 2022, according to Williams.
The project originally included 19 bridges, however two bridges – one in Upper Fairfield Township, on Heilman Road over East Mill Creek, and another in Pine Township, on English Run Road over English Run, were estimated to cost $1 million each and qualified for federal funds through PennDOT.
“They are currently programmed to be replaced as PennDOT projects using federal dollars,” Williams said. “The Upper Fairfield bridge project is scheduled to begin this year and be completed in early 2022 and the Pine Township bridge project is scheduled to begin design in 2023 with construction in 2025 or 2026.”
Here is a full list of the other 17 bridges included in the county’s bridge bundling program: