Centre County Commissioners formally accept multimodal transportation funding

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS The Centre County Commissioners accepted more than $2 million in a multimodal transportation funding grant.



BELLEFONTE — Centre County took a big step toward repairing a pair of bridges on Thursday afternoon, officially accepting $2,070,000 in grant funding through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Multimodal Transportation Fund.

The Centre County Commissioners put ink to paper to accept the grant funding. Those funds, coupled with $500,000 in Act 13 “At Risk Local Bridge” funding, $400,000 in County Fee for Local Use funding and $30,000 in local match funding means there is roughly $3 million available to repair a pair of Centre County bridges in dire need of repair.

“At the start of 2017, Centre County had 13 structurally deficient bridges – with a span of 20 feet or longer – that were unfunded,” said commissioner Michael Pipe. “That will go to five. Over the last two years, we’ve identified and allocated funding for eight unfunded bridges and we are looking forward to eventually reducing that number to zero.”

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS Bellefonte Borough Council president Joanne Tosti-Vasey speaks at a news conference on Thursday at the Willowbank Building. The Railroad Street bridge, located in Bellefonte Borough, will be repaired at a cost of $1.5 million. Looking on are, from left, Bellefonte Borough Manager Ralph Stewart, and Centre County Commissioners Mark Higgins, Michael Pipe and Steve Dershem.

Along with fellow commissioners Mark Higgins and Steve Dershem, the commissioners put pen to paper to formally accept the grant.

The bridges in need of repair are the Mill Street Bridge in Howard Borough and the Railroad Street Bridge in Bellefonte Borough.

The estimated cost of the Mill Street Bridge is $1.5 million. The bridge serves as sole access to 10-plus homes, a pair of commercial properties and the DCNR Sayers boat launch. Irv Hoy, vice president of Howard Borough Council and chair of the street committee, talked about the importance of the bridge.

“Howard is a very small community, but 800-plus residents use this bridge every day for school bus pick up and drop offs,” Hoy said. “The placement of this bridge will ensure safe passage for residents. We are a small community and we would not have been able, financially, to replace the bridge without the grant funding.”

In Bellefonte Borough, the Railroad Street Bridge is very similar.

The estimated cost is also $1.5 million for complete structure replacement. It serves as sole access to 20-plus homes and is also the SEDA COG rail line maintenance access point.

Bellefonte Borough Council president Joanne Tosti-Vasey explained that the Railroad Street Bridge is a significant part of the borough.

“Bellefonte has many areas in town that could be considered hidden corners or hidden nooks and one of these areas is Railroad Street. The bridge was built in 1925 and is now listed as structurally deficient … the county and local communities must care for these bridges,” Tosti-Vasey said.

In developing the grant application, Centre County officials worked closely with the design and municipal services units from PennDOT’s District 2-0 staff to identify and package these high priority bridges based on their similarities in condition and community context.

Pennsylvania Sen. Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte) said that the funding for projects like these is critical, especially in smaller communities.

“Transportation can be a difficult issue. These types of investments are important because we do spend so much time in our vehicles, getting from one place to another,” he said. “Making sure that we get ahead of this is important for our quality of life. The county has stepped and the state leaders have stepped up. Because of that we are able to help out a couple of small communities.”