The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


October 22, 2013

Pass road funding or risk greater costs?


And figuratively, because the aging infrastructure causes inconvenience (at best) and endangers lives (at worst) through long, costly, and sometimes dangerous detours. In many of the state's townships of the second class, road projects account for the majority of the annual budget. Municipalities are responsible for maintaining 77,000 miles of the 117,000 miles of roads in the state. They must find the funds to build, pave, and repair roads; maintain bridges; remove snow and ice; maintain traffic signs and signals on local and state roads; and minimize dust on dirt and gravel roads.

That means paying a road crew, purchasing and maintaining equipment, and covering the skyrocketing cost of materials such as salt, antiskid, steel, concrete, and oil-based products, such as asphalt.

It all adds up quickly, and when residents don't want to pay higher taxes, the budget can only be stretched so far. There's no magic to it: Townships either have to cut services or raise property taxes.

Clearly, this current shortfall in funding is a no-win situation for anyone who has to take care of the commonwealth's roads and bridges. The dollars don't go as far as they once did, and when you've got less, what choice do you have? You have to do less, and Pennsylvanians are starting to see the negative consequences of that: closed bridges, long detours, patch-worked roads, and in some cases, higher property taxes.

A township supervisor from Lancaster County recently put it all in perspective when sharing a story about two weight-restricted bridges in his township: "What's happening is that truckers are weaving through a maze of structurally deficient bridges. That costs money, and you know what's going to happen next? Those costs are going to be passed on to consumers. And guess what? You've still got a structurally deficient bridge."

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