Additional funding to the Centre County Metropolitan Planning Organization should allow for some greater flexibility in assigning tasks, according to a presentation given Monday to the Centre Region Council of Governments.
Principal transportation planner Tom Zilla explained that the MPO is “pretty stable” at this point, indicating how the organization will be funded on the local, state and federal levels.
“There have been several changes that have positively impacted transportation projects,” he said, “and our planning activities on all three levels since that time.”
According to Zilla, the MPO adopted a new local funding formula based on three elements: population, which is calculated by municipality minus on-campus Penn State students and Benner Township inmates; assessed value of property per municipality; and lane miles by non-interstate roads by municipality.
This formula is being used when allocating the 2014 budget, he said, and will be used to calculate the 2015 budget later this summer.
The state Department of Transportation also indicated in 2013 that it would increase planning funds by 15 percent, bringing the total base funding to $242,647. An additional $30,000 in supplemental transit funding would also be provided. This raises PennDOT funding to 44 percent of the MPO’s 2015 revenue, with funding from Centre County coming in second at 21 percent.
This funding has allowed the MPO to evaluate more than 100 candidate projects.
One project that gets a lot of attention in the Centre Region, Zilla said, is bike and pedestrian planning. MPO is working on a regional bike plan, which is expected to be completed in the next 18 to 20 months. A shared-path educational program has been in place for the past several months, he said, and signage is being put up that encourages cyclists and pedestrians to share paths, along with passing and safety requirements.
On the state funding level, “clearly the biggest change occurred in November 2013 with the passage of the Act 89 new transportation funding bill in Pennsylvania,” Zilla said.
The bill, which was signed in Centre County, he said, is expected in the next five years to provide up to $1.3 billion for state roads and bridges, $495 million for public transportation and $237 million for local roads and bridges.
An additional $12 million will be provided for the Waddle Road interchange and $103 million for the Potters Mills Gap project, he said.
The Waddle Road bridge off Exit 71 of Interstate 99 will be expanded to six lanes, Zilla said. The project is expected to be completed by 2015-16.
A 3.75-mile stretch of road from Potters Mills to east of Sand Mountain Road will be extended into a four-lane limited-access highway, he said, with a parallel two-lane local access road. Project completion is expected in 2019.
With the expiration of the federal funding bill expected on Sept. 30, federal funding is expected to tighten, with a majority of the funds going to federal highways, Zilla said.
“We’re pretty fortunate in Centre County because a lot of our roadways are on the national highway system,” he said. The bottom line, according to the presentation, is that federal funds are stable, but the buying power is eroding.
This will, however, allow for some repairs along federal roads, such as Atherton Street, where paving and drainage repair are expected this fall.