Gov. Corbett to sign transportation bill Monday in Centre County

Gov. Tom Corbett plans to sign a major transportation bill Monday morning at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall on U.S. Route 322 in Centre County.

The $2.3 billion transportation funding plan was passed by the state legislature last week.

Sen. Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, said Sunday that the governor’s expected appearance in the area highlights the need for work on Route 322.

“Obviously, 322 is one of the larger projects that can be funded,” he said.

A $761 million relocation of Route 322 from the top of Seven Mountains to Boalsburg is among the pricier projects on the state Department of Transportation’s list.

Corman added that he was pleased when the House voted to approve the bill and move the funding forward. He said some people have complained about the cost, but that doing nothing also would have been a costly option.

“It was a major priority for me, obviously,” Corman said of the bill. “And I think the benefits for Centre County are significant.”

The state’s leading farm advocacy group also has praised the passage of the transportation plan.

“Pennsylvania’s deteriorating road and bridge system has negatively impacted farmers, businesses and the public,” Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Carl Shaffer said. “We are pleased that action has been taken in the state House and Senate to help alleviate the problem.”

Shaffer said PennDOT’s added weight restrictions to bridges in August forced some farmers to drive longer routes to deliver corn and soybeans during the fall harvest.

Shaffer, who is also a Penn State trustee, said the longer routes increased farmers’ fuel costs and cut into their profit margins on the crops. He also said that dairy farmers footed the bill when some milk haulers had to find alternate routes to processing facilities.

The highway and bridge work will be paid for by higher fuel taxes and motorist fees.

The bill also allows PennDOT to increase speed limits from 65 mph to 70 mph on certain highways, and officials are preparing to spend up to six months reviewing the state’s interstate system as they decide which areas are suitable for higher speeds.

PennDOT spokesman Richard Kirkpatrick told the Tribune-Democrat, of Johnstown, that Pennsylvania has 700 signs posting the 65 mph limit. It costs $245 to replace each one.

The Pennsylvania AAA Federation doesn’t oppose the move to 70 mph, as long as PennDOT adequately studies the safety impact. The Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania also doesn’t oppose it.

Most states already have a top speed limit of 70 mph or higher.