Routes 11-15 bypass: 'It will be done,' state senator says
By Ashley Wislock The Daily Item
SHAMOKIN DAM — Standing in the same spot where more than seven months ago he proclaimed that the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway project was “finally, finally, finally,” being included in a funding package, Sen. John Gordner, R-27, was back to confirm that the passage of the state’s comprehensive transportation bill means the project is happening.
“It will be done,” Gordner said Tuesday.
Gordner was joined by numerous local and state representatives, including Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Barry J. Schoch, to make the announcement and celebrate the beginning of the next phase of the project.
“It’s time we finished (this project),” he said.
The Thruway is currently scheduled to be completed by 2024, with the first contract for work - on the bridge connecting Routes 15 and 147 over the West branch of the Susquehanna River - scheduled to go out in April of 2015, said Sandra Tosca, PennDOT District 3 executive.
The more than $500 million Thruway, which will provide a bypass around the busy Routes 11 and 15 strip area and the borough of Northumberland, has been in the works for 40 years, but with the transportation funding bill, all of that waiting is coming to an end, said Shamokin Dam Mayor Joe McGranahan, who chairs the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce’s transportation committee.
“Our patience, persistence and perseverance are about to be rewarded,” he said.
Gordner likened the journey to get the Thruway built to a twisty, turning hill in the annual “Run for the Diamonds” race in Berwick.
“This (project) has been one of the most crazy, turny roads,” he said.
However, the new $2.5 billion transportation bill, which includes funding for the Thruway, numerous other projects and money to repair thousands of roads and bridges across the state, also includes hikes in fees and taxes. The fee and tax increases will be made over a five-year period.
While the Thruway project is important, these road and bridge improvements are much needed to keep travelers safe, said Greater Susquehanna Valley board chairman Jim Barbarich.
“At the end of the day, it’s about safety,” he said. “This was the right thing to do.”
Those benefits are worth the cost that consumers may see, specifically from the increase in tax on gasoline at the wholesale level, Barbarich said.
“In the 5th year, if all the costs (of the gas tax) are passed on to the consumer, the average $2.50 per week for the average driver,” Barbarich said. “That’s about the cost of a large cup of coffee. I would gladly give up this cup of coffee to make sure my family travels safely.”
The project was able to come to fruition due to the cohesive front presented by many of the delegates assembled Tuesday, according to several in attendance.
“Our local delegation is strong,” said state Sen. Gene Yaw. “This vote was not an easy vote to make, but these legislators were willing to stand up and be counted. If not for the cooperation of our state and local leaders, and especially the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce and area businesses, I don’t believe we would be standing here today.”