Upper Dublin hoping to keep $1M in funding from federal highway earmark
Upper Dublin would like to get $1 million in federal highway funds approved for a railroad bridge replacement redirected to another project.
The $1 million is part of a nationwide $473 million in unspent earmarks —$29 million for Pennsylvania — approved in federal 20032006 fiscal year appropriations acts being released by the Obama Administration, according to a White House press release.
While the president is against earmarks, the appropriations acts “contain provisions that authorize the [U.S. transportation] sec- retary to make the unused funds available for eligible surface transportation projects,” the release states.
As of Aug. 17, the state departments of transportation have until Oct. 1 to identify eligible highway, transit, passenger rail or port projects for which they would like to use the unspent earmarks, according to the release. The funds must be obligated for the projects by Dec. 31 of this year.
The $1 million earmark to replace the Norfolk Southern Bridge at Susquehanna Road and Limekiln Pike in Upper Dublin is unlikely to be used for that project, as the cost estimate to widen the bridge and roadway beneath it was originally about $12 million, Township Manager Paul Leonard said Aug. 27.
“If the cost [difference] is $11 million, I don’t see that happening,” Leonard said.
Traffic during rush hour often bottlenecks below the 1920s vintage stone train bridge due to its narrow, twolane width at the junction of Susquehanna and Limekiln, both main thoroughfares that traverse through Upper Dublin.
Among factors impacting possible replacement of the bridge are the fact that the rail line, referred to as the Trenton cutoff, is critical to commerce and cannot be shut down, and “significant property acquisitions” would be required, Leonard said.
When the railroad had to replace a bridge in the Route 309 reconstruction project, a complete temporary bridge had to be built out of wood “because you can’t shut the line,” he said.
There is also new development in the area adjacent to the bridge “that might not be easy to work around,” he said, and the “$1 million would not even cover the cost of permitting and engineering.”
Leonard said he would prefer to see the money go into the Fort Washington Office Park roadways, which are estimated to cost about $34 million to rebuild.
The roads in the office park were identified as federal aid highways and approved for federal funding since the early 1980s, he said, but no federal money — which would come through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation — has been allocated for the project.
Leonard was not initially hopeful of getting the money for the office park roadways.
Upper Dublin “just got $11.8 million” in a state H20 grant to build two dams to help alleviate flooding in the office park, “and I expect that’s the last we’ll see in a while,” he said.
Leonard said, however, he would ask federal and state officials to see if it could be done.
A representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-13, told Leonard in an email that the state will get to decide what projects get the unspent earmarks, but added, “Con- gresswoman Schwartz will work to ensure that area localities receive every appropriate consideration for this funding.”
The projects PennDOT will approve the funding for has not yet been determined.
“Right now the department is working on the details, as far as the influx of federal funding and how it will be applied,” PennDOT spokesman Gene Blaum said Aug. 28, noting the announcement regarding the federal funds had only been made about 10 days prior. “It’s doing an analysis to determine exactly how it will be used.”
The decision will likely come in the next couple of weeks, in light of the Oct. 1 deadline, he said.