As Pennsylvania’s secretary of transportation, Mike Carroll considers it his job to oversee as many road, bridge, rail and transit projects as possible without increasing the cost for users.
That’s why it is important for the state Legislature to finalize the state’s budget as soon as it can, Carroll said during a news conference Thursday on the Smithfield Street Bridge. That budget would transfer an additional $125 million into PennDOT’s coffers for the new year that began July 1.
Right now, PennDOT uses $500 million to pay for state police patrols on state highways. Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget plan calls for paying $125 million more of that cost each year for the next four years from the state’s general fund, freeing $500 million for transportation projects.
Flanked by state and local elected officials, Carroll said it is the state’s obligation to do “everything possible” with the money available.
“Our challenge is to make the money we receive already go as far as it can without raising taxes,” he said.
The additional money, which amounts to about 8 cents of the state’s gasoline tax, will go a long way to help, he said.
State Rep. Dan Deasy, D-Westwood, stressed that the governor’s plan would not reduce funding for state police.
“We need to make sure we have money for both,” he said.
Cheryl Moon-Sirianni, Carroll’s top assistant, said the extra state money, along with the Biden administration’s infrastructure program, is crucial to projects in this area. She had served as the PennDOT district executive for Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties before her promotion earlier this year.
The district expects to have $368 million in projects under contract by the end of the year, including 44 bridge replacements and 37 long-delayed slide remediation projects.
One of those projects is the $8.5 million project to improve Downtown’s Smithfield Street Bridge, which was built in 1881. Work includes replacing the sidewalks, sealing the deck, steel repairs and painting.
Two lanes on the upriver side of the bridge are closed now, and traffic is limited to one lane in each direction. Next month, those lanes will reopen and one downriver lane will close nearest the sidewalk for work there.