These projects could benefit from a financial boost
President Joe Biden will travel to Scranton on Wednesday, where he will present his The Build Back Better program and bipartite infrastructure legislation which was passed by the Senate in August and is awaiting a vote in the House.
The $ 1 trillion infrastructure package includes funds for public transport, roads and bridges, abandoned mine reclamation, broadband and other physical infrastructure projects.
Here is a look at some of the Pennsylvania projects that could benefit from the bill.
New Amtrak Routes
The infrastructure bill includes $ 66 billion for Amtrak, which in May proposed 39 new routes nationwide.
Although the legislation does not specify which routes will be funded, advocates of passenger rail in northeastern Pennsylvania have been optimistic about the prospects for a line between Scranton and New York. Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority signed an agreement in July for Amtrak to assess the infrastructure along the route and study ridership and revenue.
“The new services offered from Reading, Allentown and Scranton illustrate the potential that exists across the country, as well as the potential to create new local employment opportunities and promote the already strong travel and tourism industry that exists in Pennsylvania, âsaid Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn. a panel discussion with leaders from Pennsylvania last month. âIn fact, as we analyze potential routes that could be developed in our national strategy, the proposed new services connecting Reading, Allentown and Scranton to New York were among the main corridors for projected ridership and financial performance.
Here’s what Amtrak has to offer in Pennsylvania:
- Three new routes separately connecting Allentown, Reading and Scranton to New York are expected to serve a total of 1.3 million passengers per year.
- Faster speeds on the Harrisburg-Philadelphia section of the Keystone Highway.
- Double the service on the Pennsylvania route from a daily round trip to two.
Road and bridge improvements
With 3,353 bridges and over 7,540 miles of derelict freeway, Pennsylvania got a C grade from the White House when the Biden administration released state-by-state infrastructure fact sheets in April.
Overall, the condition of Pennsylvania’s bridges is improving, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. These 3,353 bridges represent 14.6% of the state’s total, compared to 4,430 bridges (19.4%) in 2016.
Still, Pennsylvania ranks # 2 in the country for the total number of structurally deficient bridges, according to the ARTBA, and # 5 when you consider the percentage of bridges.
Seven counties each have more than 100 bridges in poor condition. Allegheny County, where three rivers flow through Pittsburgh, leads the way with 142 problematic bridges.
The infrastructure bill would give Pennsylvania $ 11.3 billion for federal highway assistance programs and $ 1.6 billion for bridge replacement and repair, according to U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D- Scranton).
Here is a look at some of the road and bridge projects that could receive funding from the infrastructure bill:
- Harrisburg Interstate 83 Bridge Replacement: The old I-83 bridge over the Susquehanna River in the Harrisburg area is in need of replacement, and is expected to cost between $ 500 million and $ 650 million. Plans call for the new structure to be five lanes wide to meet future traffic demand. It is one of nine statewide bridges being considered for the toll to help pay for the works.
- Rehabilitation of a historic bridge: The 92-year-old Veterans Memorial Bridge on Route 462 spans the Susquehanna River between York and Lancaster counties and is in need of rehabilitation at a cost of almost $ 59.8 million. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered the longest concrete arch bridge in the world.
- Widening of Interstate 83 in York Region: PennDOT plans to widen I-83 – a major connector between Harrisburg and Baltimore – from four to six lanes in York Region. Scheduled to start in 2023, the project will cost more than $ 300 million and aims to ensure long-term maintenance of the aging highway and improve traffic flow and safety.
- Extending Interstate 80 in Monroe County: PennDOT plans to widen I-80 from four to six lanes in the Stroudsburg / East Stroudsburg area, where weekend traffic in particular may be slowed down when tourists enter and exit the Pocono Mountains. The project would also raise bridges and lengthen ramps, among other improvements.
- Widening of American Highway 219: A portion of this road is limited to two lanes in certain sections, including a portion from Meyersdale in Somerset County in the south to Interstate 68 in Maryland. The infrastructure plan includes $ 1.25 billion over five years for the Appalachian Development Highway System, part of which will go to Pennsylvania and could help expand 219 to four lanes. Other unfinished projects in the Appalachian system include the Central Susquehanna Thruway and US 220 / I-99, according to Casey’s office.
Reclamation of abandoned mining lands
The bill would give almost $ 11.3 billion to the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund.
In Pennsylvania, more than “91,400 acres of high priority abandoned coal mine sites have been reclaimed” and “the dangers associated with more than 1,880 surface mine shafts and portals have been eliminated,” among other projects, according to a 2019 update of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
However, the DEP said more than $ 3.9 billion is needed to address other high priority issues related to abandoned mines.
According to Casey, Pennsylvania would receive more than three-quarters of that amount.
“Under this legislation, Pennsylvania is expected to receive more than $ 3 billion to help reclaim abandoned mines,” Casey said in a statement after the Senate passed the infrastructure bill. âIn addition, this bill authorizes $ 4.7 billion to plug, repair and recover orphaned wells. There are at least 8,000 documented orphan wells in Pennsylvania that will be eligible for treatment under this program. “
Pennsylvania’s Eighth District, which covers part of the anthracite coal region, has more than 300 abandoned mines in need of restoration, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D-Moosic) said during an audition with Home Secretary Deb Haaland earlier this year.
âThese abandoned mines pose a serious risk to the health of our constituents, our environment. They hamper economic development. Parts of the Susquehanna and Lackawanna rivers are tinged orange due to iron oxide in abandoned mine drainage, âCartwright said.
Abandoned mining land issues are present in 43 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
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The plan also invests in broadband, electric vehicle charging and public transport, among others.
- Broadband Extension and Support: Pennsylvania will receive $ 100 million to extend high-speed Internet to nearly 400,000 state residents and help 2.9 million low-income families in Pennsylvania by making them eligible for the Affordability of connectivity to help them pay for broadband.
- More car charging stations: $ 171 million would be used to expand Pennsylvania’s electric vehicle charging network as part of the fight against climate change.
- Public transit: $ 2.8 billion would be invested over five years.
Gannett reporters Teresa Boeckel, JD Prose and Dylan Johnson contributed to this story.
Kathryne Rubright is a journalist who covers the environment, Northeastern Pennsylvania politics, and local news. She is based at the Pocono Record. Contact her at [email protected]