Senator Baker Promotes Local Projects at State Transportation Commission Hearing

Good morning Secretary Biehler and members of the commission. Welcome to northeastern Pennsylvania!

For a long time, this region has enjoyed economic development and growth as a direct result of highway development, bridge construction, rail improvements and airport expansion. However, the current economic slowdown is hitting our area especially hard.

As you hear from planners and local officials outlining the priorities for our region, you need to be aware of the economic urgency for these projects. They are a critical part of reversing recent economic setbacks and job losses. We need a strong commitment and response from transportation officials today to accelerate the priority list of projects that will have a positive impact on job creation and safety in our communities.

Clearly, completing the Marshall’s Creek Traffic Relief project has never been more crucial. The decision to advance a portion of the work this year was welcome, and I appreciated the opportunity to participate in PennDOT’s advisory group. This longtime priority is vital to the tourism industry and its completion will alleviate congestion and improve traffic safety in one of the fastest-growing counties of the state.

Improved access to the entrance of the Sterling Business Park in Wayne County is critical to the success of this industrial site. The relocation and realignment of the intersection between S.R .191 and S.R. 3004 will improve sight distance for vehicles, eliminating driver confusion and improving safety and access to the facility.

After years of discussion and study, other major projects, such as the rebuilding of S. R. 2001 in Pike County, are progressing towards construction. However, there is a need for continued funding and support to complete the project all the way to S. R. 739. Additionally, S. R. 2003 deserves immediate attention. With more than 50 school buses per day and 1,200 new homes on the way, a road built at the turn of the century is not sufficient to handle the explosive population growth experienced over the last 10 years.

Much work has also been done to address our structurally deficient bridges through federal stimulus and state funding made available through the Rebuild Pennsylvania Program. However, several projects remain. In Luzerne County there are several bridges damaged by the flood of 2006 that have not been repaired. In Susquehanna County, many structurally deficient bridges need to be restored or replaced. As traffic from natural gas exploration continues to increase, planning for many structures, such as the bridge spanning Tunkhannock Creek on U.S. Route 6, will need to be revisited. Although currently scheduled for a bridge deck replacement, there are concerns about whether its substandard width will be sufficient to safely accommodate the mix of large truck traffic and those traveling to work or school.

The need for safety and access improvements to S. R. 239 in Conyngham Township, Luzerne County, is a major concern for local officials and residents. The road serves as an evacuation route for the PPL nuclear facility and a detour for the interstate.

The department must continue its efforts to address the safety and congestion at the five-way intersection of S. R. 415 in Dallas Borough, as well as the Hildebrandt Road and S. R. 309 intersection leading to the Dallas School District complex.

The economic future of this area depends very much on the transportations projects discussed today. Communities look to the past and see the progress that followed infrastructure improvements and again look to transportation investment to lead the way in these difficult times.

Contact: Jennifer Wilson
(570) 675-3931