BELLEFONTE — During this week’s Centre County Board of Commissioners meeting, Elizabeth “Liz” Lose, assistant director of planning and community development, spoke about the Local Transportation Funding Program.
Lose presented a powerpoint with slides containing important information on the funding program.
“Centre County — like many other counties — has different allocations and streams of transportation funding. These include: our liquid fuels, fee for local use funds (which are from the registration vehicle fees) and the Act 13 “At Risk Bridge” fund (from the unconventional gas well drilling),” Lose said. “These different streams of funding provide a lot of flexibility on funding projects throughout the county.”
If one fund doesn’t meet the needs of the project, money can be pulled from a different one. Having different areas in which funding is pulled from creates the opportunity to leverage from other funding sources (private, state and federal) as well as allows for shifting of funding between the programs to address priority needs, Lose said.
According to Lose, when they get their applications in, there are eligibility requirements that fall under PennDOT. PennDOT primarily wants to look at the construction, maintenance and repair of municipal-owned roads and bridges. Other expenditures are eligible (such as equipment.), she explained.
“Centre County has funded, in the past, snow plows, snow trucks — things of that nature,” said Lose.
The process has a set of criteria the applications are evaluated on. One of these criteria is need, meaning risk of closure or detour, imposing weight restrictions and addresses multiple benefits, Lose said. The other criteria are safety improvements, municipal/other contributions, and year of last allocation — looking specifically at whether or not they received funding the previous year.
The county received 14 applications by its October deadline. All of the applications are eligible projects — already run through PennDOT and deemed eligible to move forward. These applications are through 14 different municipalities.
“The requested amount is always higher than what we have,” said Lose. “This year’s amount requested is in line with what it was last year — $987,397.50. The estimated Liquid Fuels available is $164,397.27.”
The next few slides she presented to the board were full of tables and data concerning the 2023 Transportation Program recommendations. Lose presented five for the commissioners’ consideration.
Each project listed on the slide was labeled by municipality, project, total project cost, requested amount, percent requested of county aid, the last year they received funding, what they’re recommending out of liquid fuels and what they recommend to be used out of Fee for Local Use funds.
The projects discussed were:
— Burnside Township pipe replacements on Main Street, Viehdorfer Road, Sunset Drive and Hilltop Drive.
— Taylor Township identified four roads with severe deterioration. (Gardner, Tuskovich, McMonigal and Goss Hollow Lanes).
— Walker Township wants to address a bridge beam replacement to prolong the life of the bridge.
— Worth Township applied to do work on Shady Dell Road– crowing, restoring the base and addressing drainage problems.
— State College Borough wants to make changes to their pedestrian crossing — installing ADA ramps to reduce speeding and improve pedestrian safety.
“With my background in turning around failing businesses and private industry for three decades, I always think about cash flow,” said Commissioner Mark Higgins. “At this point we have over $300,000 coming in in early ’23… We might not actually have to cut checks on any of these projects until summer. We’re going to get another $300,000 in the summer.”
“I’d like us to consider funding a couple more of these liquid fuels slash fee for local use projects. I’d like to be a little more aggressive in funding some of these municipal requests,” Higgins continued.
Commissioner Steven G. Dershem offered his own thoughts on the funding.
“I’m going to add another element into the conversation,” said Dershem, “I’m not a big fan of the fee for local use. The fact that we have it is a different discussion, but the thing that’s always troubled me is that that is based upon vehicle ownership. If you look at where the vast number of vehicles are in the county, it’s in the center region of the Bellefonte corridor.”
“I don’t know that we have proportionately funded projects in those corridors. If we can look at how we can maybe move some of the fee for local use dollars to projects that directly impact the people who are funding (it),” Dershem continued.
“We like the conservative approach. I think we like the fact that we’re being very mindful and don’t want to overextend ourselves. I think we have a consensus to potentially look at some other projects,” said Chairman Michael Pipe.
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