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Highway funding jolt could be coming

Federal infrastructure bill would allocate more than $3.5M annually

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act pending in Washington, D.C., calls for allocating $3.9 billion to Pennsylvania for transportation — with Blair County slated to get between $3.5 million and $5.5 million annually over five years.

That’s according to officials of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the agency that helps PennDOT set local funding priorities.

Adding those amounts to the current annual base of about $11 million for county transportation projects, however, won’t change PennDOT’s focus on road and bridge maintenance, a focus that has prevailed for several years, according to Vince Greenland, assistant PennDOT District 9 engineer for design.

Rather, it will simply improve the department’s ability to do such maintenance, which is costly, especially “high profile” work on the new highways constructed a generation ago, when the focus was different, thanks to millions of dollars earmarked by former U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, then chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

A resurfacing project on the new section of Route 22 from I-99 to the Cambria County line costs about $12 million, for example, Greenland said.

PennDOT likes to resurface highways like I-99 and Route 22 every 12 to 15 years.

At current funding levels, such projects have been “hard to sustain,” especially when coupled with projects like the recent rehabilitations of formerly dangerous intersections on the old part of Route 22 at Canoe Creek and Frankstown Road, Greenland said.

It “absolutely” makes sense to keep the maintenance focus, rather than planning new construction, said Dave Butterbaugh, a member of the Blair County MPO and an Altoona city councilman.

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