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Centre County projects see boost from gas tax

Traffic exits Interstate 99 onto the Waddle Road ramp. The gas tax increase, which went into effect Wednesday, will help pay for several road projects in Centre County, including widening the overpass at the frequently congested Waddle Road interchange.
Traffic exits Interstate 99 onto the Waddle Road ramp. The gas tax increase, which went into effect Wednesday, will help pay for several road projects in Centre County, including widening the overpass at the frequently congested Waddle Road interchange. CDT file photo

A fuel tax increase may be felt at the pumps in the near future, but just how much of a bump remains to be seen.

A 9.8-cent per gallon tax increase went into effect Thursday as part of Act 89 of 2013, a series of amendments designed to provide a comprehensive transportation funding package for the commonwealth.

By adjusting or increasing certain fees and taxes, the state expects to generate $2.3 billion toward repairs and projects.

The 9.8-cent increase is the second increase in the state since the act went into effect at the beginning of 2014. A 9.4-cent increase occurred at the beginning of last year, the benefits of which have been seen in some Centre County road projects.

U.S. Route 322 improvements, including repair, resurfacing and overhead bridge construction, were made possible by $5.1 million in Act 89 funding, according to PennDOT. In total, about $12.2 million was provided to various Centre County transportation projects in 2014.

Four new projects are scheduled for the county in 2015 totaling almost $13.3 million.

The Waddle Road interchange in Patton Township will be one of the largest projects to receive funding, with $10 million coming from Act 89, according to PennDOT Assistant District Executive Karen Michael.

Designed to relieve congestion, replace an obsolete bridge and accommodate growth and development, the project will see the eventual replacement of the Waddle Road bridge to a six-lane bridge crossing Interstate 99.

Other projects slated for 2015 include $1.1 million to the betterment of Route 322 in Philipsburg; $1.9 million for the replacement of the Cold Stream Run bridge on state Route 3034 in Philipsburg; and $268,000 for the replacement of a box culvert on Chestnut Grove Road near Runville in Boggs Township.

Drivers may or may not feel the pressure at the pumps, according to Chris Lykens, of Lykens Market.

“It depends on what the gas price is,” Lykens said. “Our price went down five cents on Dec. 31, so if it goes down 10 cents total, no one will even see a difference at the pump.”

A gallon of regular gas currently goes for $2.49 at Lykens’ Bellefonte location, he said.

Funding is not coming solely from fuel taxes. The new year saw some slight increases in various transportation fees as well.

According to Act 89, passenger-car registration fees increased $1 to $37 for 2015-16. That fee will rise by another dollar in 2017. Pickup truck registration fees increased from $58.50 to $60 with the new year; and motorcycle registration fees rose $1 to $19.

Driver licensing fees have risen $1 to $22 for 2015-16 and will increase to $23 in 2017.

Unrelated to Act 89, drivers will also see an increase on turnpike tolls very soon. According to a Turnpike Commission release, toll rates are set to increase by 5 percent Sunday.

“The increase is needed, in part, to fulfill the turnpike's obligation to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania to address a transportation-funding shortfall,” the release said.

The commission hopes to boost the sales of E-ZPass transmitters, which process tolls electronically and are expected to save customers as much as 35 percent compared with paying in cash.

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