WHY WAS THE CSVT PROJECT PLACED “ON HOLD” IN JULY OF 2008?
Based on the estimated remaining funding needed to complete all design, right-of-way acquisition, and utility relocation efforts and construction of the CSVT Project, the SEDA-COG region’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) simply could not afford to complete this project given the need to focus transportation resources on system preservation. Since there was no funding for the CSVT Project on the 2009-2012 TIP and there were no other dedicated funds identified for the project's construction, the project was placed on hold to allow additional time to pursue other funding options without losing the investment in the project.
TO WHAT EXTENT HAS THE DESIGN OF THE CSVT PROJECT BEEN REACTIVATED?
In April of 2009, through the combined efforts of the administration, area representatives, PennDOT, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the final design efforts for the CSVT Project’s Northern Section were reactivated. The 20% non-federal matching funds to complete plans preparation and other final design activities were made available from the Governor’s economic development fund.
The reactivation did not include the following pre-construction activities: additional right-of-way acquisitions beyond those already underway, utility relocations, submission of permit applications, floodplain (FEMA) map revisions (necessary for the proposed river bridge), or final design of the Southern Section. These items will need to be completed prior to construction but will not be reinitiated prior to the identification of funding necessary to complete the entire project.
WHAT SPECIFIC DESIGN ACTIVITIES IS PENNDOT CURRENTLY WORKING ON?
Work is continuing on the following items for the Northern Section of the CSVT Project:
- Preparation of the design-build contract provisions for the proposed river bridge.
- Completion of the hydraulic studies for the proposed river bridge.
- Final design of seven other structures.
- Subsurface investigations (e.g., tests for completed soil borings) for roadway and structures.
- Preparation, but not processing, of the waterway/wetland and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit applications and the floodplain (FEMA) map revisions (necessary for the river bridge), including municipal and public coordination.
WHAT IS THE EARLIEST THAT THE NORTHERN SECTION COULD GO TO CONSTRUCTION?
The goal is to have the first of three construction contracts for the Northern Section, that for the proposed river bridge and associated approach earthwork, prepared and ready to advance to construction within 12 to 18 months of the identification of funding for all phases of the entire CSVT Project. That period of time is anticipated to be required to complete the necessary right-of-way acquisitions, utility relocations, and permitting.
When the initial construction contract is let, two subsequent contracts are intended to advance to construction approximately one year apart thereafter. The second contract will include construction of the remaining earthwork and structures, and the third contract will include the roadway paving for the Northern Section.
WHY CAN’T FINAL DESIGN OF THE SOUTHERN SECTION AND THE OTHER NECESSARY PRE-CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITIES PROCEED?
Based on current federal transportation funding requirements, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has determined that the CSVT Project’s entire costs must be taken into account for planning/programming purposes. A financial plan needs to be in place and approved by the FHWA outlining how PennDOT plans to fund all phases of the entire project, including final design of the Southern Section and right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation, and construction for both the Northern and Southern Sections.
Having both prior FHWA authorization for final design of the Northern Section and adequate funding to complete this phase, the Northern Section is unique, and the associated final design activities are able to proceed. However, the approval to complete the design specifically limits additional pre-construction activities until a financial plan addressing all of the CSVT Project is approved.
WHAT IS THE CURRENTLY ESTIMATED COST OF THE CSVT PROJECT? HOW MUCH HAS ALREADY BEEN SPENT ON THE PROJECT?
The total estimated cost of the CSVT Project, including both the Northern and Southern Sections, is $508.8 million based on 2010 costs (or $604.3 million based on anticipated year of expenditure costs). That total includes $92.0 million for pre-construction activities (i.e., design, wetland mitigation, right-of-way acquisition, and utility relocation) and $416.8 million (or $512.3 million based on anticipated year of expenditure costs) for construction.
As of December 2010, approximately $40 million of federal and state funding have been spent on design, wetland mitigation, right-of-way acquisition, and utility relocation.
AREN’T THERE FUNDS AVAILABLE WITHIN THE SEDA-COG REGION THAT COULD BE USED FOR THIS PROJECT?
The SEDA-COG region’s base allocation for five counties within PennDOT District 3-0 is approximately $28.6 million per year (not including earmarked or spike funding). That current funding level is not sufficient to maintain all of the existing highways and bridges in those five counties and support the completion of the CSVT Project.
HOW IS THE PROJECT AFFECTED BY THE DECEMBER 2010 APPALACHIAN REGIONAL COMMISSION (ARC) ACTION THAT MADE THE PROJECT ELIGIBLE FOR APPALACHIAN DEVELOPMENT HIGHWAY SYSTEM (ADHS) FUNDING? WHAT ADDITIONAL STEPS ARE NEEDED TO IDENTIFY THE REMAINING FUNDING NEEDED FOR THE PROJECT?
The ARC action that made the CSVT Project eligible for ADHS funding was a significant step toward identifying the remaining funding needed for the project. However, additional steps must be taken in order to fully fund the project and advance it to construction.
Specifically, previous Congressional action limited or “capped” the ADHS funding that is now allocated to the project to an amount (based on a 2007 cost estimate to complete the ADHS within Pennsylvania) that is less than the currently estimated cost of the project. As a result, unless other funding sources are identified, further Congressional action will be required to remove or adjust the funding cap in order to fully fund the project with ADHS funds. Such action could potentially be included in future federal transportation legislation passed by Congress.
Furthermore, based on current legislation, ADHS funds can only be used for 80 percent of the project costs, and the remaining 20 percent must be funded by a state or local matching contribution. To advance the project to construction, amended federal legislation is needed to allow toll credits to be used as the matching contribution on ADHS-funded projects. Such action would allow additional ADHS funds and/or other federal funds to be used in lieu of a state or local contribution, thereby allowing ADHS and/or other federal funds to be used for 100 percent of the project costs (assuming that the funding cap is removed or adjusted as described above).
WHAT ARE TOLL CREDITS?
Toll credits are a funding technique that arises from the fact that the state has a Pennsylvania Turnpike and other toll bridges that collect private user fees (tolls), thereby avoiding the use of federal highway and bridge capital expenditures. The state gets credit for that and, in essence, can use toll credits to have the federal government pay 100 percent of the cost of some projects (although currently not ADHS-funded projects, as described above).
WHAT DOES THE 2009 REACTIVATION OF THE DESIGN OF THE NORTHERN SECTION MEAN TO THE PROPERTY OWNERS IMPACTED BY THE PROJECT?
Where PennDOT had already started the acquisition process (prior to the project being placed “on hold”), the property owner had the option to continue the acquisition process. However, no further offers to acquire right-of-way will be made at this time. Mr. Lenny Confer, District Right-of-Way Administrator, may be contacted at 570-368-4337 with right-of-way questions.
WILL PENNDOT BE RENTING PROPERTIES THAT IT HAS ALREADY ACQUIRED?
PennDOT is currently renting three properties that have already been acquired as right-of-way. The intention is to continue to rent them as long as practical. Buildings on other properties determined not feasible or reasonable to rent have been demolished and removed.
MANY OF THE SAFETY PROBLEMS THAT THE CSVT PROJECT IS SUPPOSED TO FIX WILL REMAIN UNTIL THE CSVT PROJECT IS CONSTRUCTED. WHAT IS PENNDOT DOING ABOUT THESE ISSUES?
PennDOT has undertaken safety and congestion studies to identify potential interim localized improvements to the existing network. Specifically, PennDOT is currently studying the intersection of US Route 11 and PA Route 147 in Northumberland to identify potential methods of improving safety and reducing congestion at that location.