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PennDOT shows funding plan it had kept from public

The department made the password-protected information available to legislators more than two weeks ago, but refused numerous AP requests over that period to release the same information to the public that will pay for any new projects that are chosen.

By MARC LEVY
The Associated Press

6/24/2013

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation on Friday made public a website that compares competing plans to spend billions of dollars in new transportation money, three days after The Associated Press reported it had limited the information to state lawmakers.

The department made the password-protected information available to legislators more than two weeks ago, but refused numerous AP requests over that period to release the same information to the public that will pay for any new projects that are chosen.

The transportation bill is the state's first in six years, and proponents say it is badly needed since the fuel taxes and motorist fees that largely fund highways and bridges have not risen since the 1990s, and aren't going as far anymore, thanks to increasingly fuel efficient cars and inflation that makes construction more expensive.

The time for the public to learn about the projects ahead of a possible bill passage is dwindling. Gov. Tom Corbett is pressing for a plan before July 1, when the Legislature traditionally leaves Harrisburg for the summer.

PennDOT's website — http://www.dotdecade.pa.gov/doi/index.aspx — shows a map of highway and bridge projects that would be completed over a decade under two plans: a $2.5 billion-a-year Senate plan the House is considering and a $1.8 billion-a-year plan that Gov. Tom Corbett advocates.

The map can be sorted by county or legislative district, and information on each project includes a description, cost estimate and video clip.

Most of the money for both plans would be raised by increasing wholesale gas taxes.

Senators approved the $2.5 billion plan on a vote of 45 to 5 on June 5, just minutes before they received access to the website. That plan was expected to undergo changes in the House Transportation Committee before any vote is held, which could occur on Monday.

Some projects will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Among them are $782 million for three Interstate 83-related projects in the Harrisburg area and a $761 million relocation of U.S. Route 322 from the top of Seven Mountains to Boalsburg in Centre County, southeast of State College.

Others include a $216 million reconstruction, widening and bridge improvement on U.S. Route 1 in southern Bucks County, a $99.8 million concrete pavement restoration on Route 6279 in Pittsburgh and more than $290 million in improvements to U.S. Route 322 in Delaware County, south of Philadelphia, around its interchange with Interstate 95.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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JB Hunt