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State Lawmaker Suggests Using Shale Funds for Bridges

On the heels of PennDOT’s announcement that it is weight restricting 1,000 bridges statewide, one state lawmaker is proposing to take revenue from natural gas development and use it for bridge repairs.

“I’m proposing that in order to fix our most defective bridges that we open up about 300,000 acres of state lands, of which we have 1.5 million acres, for drilling so that we can, over the next three years, collect about a billion dollars in revenues plus royalties to be able to put that into a restricted fun that would go directly to weight-restricted bridges,” said Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny & Washington).

Saccone said PennDOT is not considering how smaller communities will be affected. For example, he said Elizabeth Bridge gets about 600 tractor-trailers, cement trucks and other heavy traffic a day. That bridge, Route 51 over Route 837 and the Monongahela River in Elizabeth Township in on the restricted list.

“They’re going to divert that down through the Elizabeth Borough which is a one-lane town with one police officer and schools crossings and so forth,” Saccone said. “It’s not designed to handle that type of traffic so it’ll ruin the town, it’ll ruin the road, it’ll cause damage, the poles will get hit.”

Saccone pointed out the affected bridges do not pose a threat to public safety, but are being weight-restricted in an effort to try and extend their lives. He said his proposal would provide funding for needed upgrades and repairs while sparing taxpayers any expense.

“The alternative right now is Senate Bill 1, which in order to raise $2 billion for not just roads and bridges, but mass transit and other items, they’re going to raise the gas tax $0.28 a gallon and also your registration fees and many other fees,” Saccone said.

Senate Bill 1 was passed in the Senate before they recessed for the summer, but its prospects in the House are uncertain. Saccone said he will introduce his bill Friday. The House and Senate officially reconvene September 23.

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