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Area roads included in stimulus-funded projects

Published February 16. 2010 05:00PM

As the nation approaches Feb. 17, the one-year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the state Department of Transportation has released more details on road projects funded by the federal dollars. This area is within PennDOT's Engineering District 5, which includes Carbon, Schuylkill, Monroe, Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties.

The district boasts 31 ARRA projects worth more than $141 million that will improve more than 120 bridges and more than 120 miles of road.

"With the one year anniversary of the Recovery Act approaching on Feb. 17, we are providing an overview of the projects funded through the Act," District Executive Michael W. Rebert, P.E., said. "The Act has kept our contractors busy, and will continue to do so this year and next."

In Carbon County, Hanson Aggregates, LLC, of Allentown, was awarded the $1,710,782 contract to resurface and install new drainage features along almost four miles of SR209 between Susquehanna Steet in Jim Thorpe and the Thomas J. McCall Memorial Bridge in Lehighton. Work started in November and is expected to finish this summer. The bid opening was held may 21, 2009, and the contract awarded June 15.

The other federal stimulus-funded state roads project in the area, the Interstate 80 Intelligent Transportation System, started on Sept. 9. The project involves installing Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) conduit and equipment on Interstate 78 and SR61 north in Berks, Interstate 80 in Carbon and Monroe counties, Interstate 81 and SR61 south in Schuylkill County, and Interstate 380 in Monroe County.

Electric Company of New Castle, Lawrence County, is the general contractor for the $3,112,479 project, which is expected to finish this summer. Bids were opened May 21 and awarded June 15.

Under the project, Electric Company will install five closed circuit television cameras; three dynamic message signs; five Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) transmitters; and two HAR signs. On I80, crews will install two closed circuit television cameras. On I81, crews will install three closed circuit television cameras and four dynamic message signs. On I380, crews will install one closed circuit television camera. On SR61 crews will install two HAR signs and transmitters.

The projects are among 326 in the state, according to PennDOT, 42 percent of the projects involve bridges, including 133 structurally deficient bridges. Another 40 percent of the projects involve resurfacing.

"Pennsylvania received the top ranking among large states for the speed with which it delivered on the recovery program, based on reports collected by the U.S. House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee (as of Nov. 30, 2009). Pennsylvania ranked sixth overall in this ranking. To cite one example, we cut the average time between advertising contracts for bidding and the start of construction from 109 days to 77 days. Our partners in the construction and consultant industries worked very hard with us to expedite these projects. And the ARRA successes came on top of PennDOT's base program that totaled $1.7 billion in contract awards in 2009," said PennDOT spokesman Ron Young in a prepared statement.

The work isn't finished yet: PennDOT has applied for "$95 million out of the $1.5 billion ARRA Tiger grant program for rebuilding a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 95 at the Cottman Avenue Interchange in Philadelphia and joined with neighboring states to seek ARRA dollars for two national rail freight improvements: Norfolk Southern Railroad's $2.5 billion Crescent Corridor and CSX Railroad's $700 million National Gateway projects. Each will enhance the rail freight network through Pennsylvania and help ease congestion pressure on our interstates," Young said.

The influx of money has also brought jobs."During August, September and October 2009, the ARRA program meant that more than 5,000 people in each of those months were working on ARRA transportation projects in Pennsylvania paid with the $1.026 billion ARRA funds allocated to Pennsylvania. Without that investment, those people likely would have been without jobs, drawing jobless benefits and helping to slow down an economy in desperate need of stimulus. Instead, with the recovery program, they continued to buy the day-to-day items they needed, helping both the economy and keeping tax revenue flowing," Young said.

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