CHAMBERSBURG– The Franklin County Commissioners have approved a bridge replacement and maintenance plan that ensures the future safety of county bridges through at least 2029 without the need for a property tax increase or a vehicle registration fee. The commissioners approved the funding during the board’s Oct. 5 public meeting.
“The key to this plan is using $800,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and almost $10 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA),” said Franklin County Commissioner Chairman Dave Keller. “Bridges are critical to public safety, agriculture and our local economy in general. It’s our job to get projects done that support those goals. If we can do that without burdening local property tax payers, that’s a good use of these federal funds.”
Franklin County owns and maintains 92 bridges, the second highest number among counties in Pennsylvania’s south central region.
“We’re not looking for new things to spend ARPA money on. We’re staying focused on our core responsibilities like public safety, transportation and economic development,” said Commissioner Bob Ziobrowski. “Good bridges make way for school buses, fire trucks and ambulances, and milk trucks.”
Commissioner John Flannery added, “Let’s face it. We’ve got a lot of bridges, and the usual state and federal funding streams aren’t enough. Without ARPA and the infrastructure bill, we would have to raise property taxes or levy a vehicle registration fee to keep our bridges up to code. The plan we approved today avoids the need to tap local property tax payers for the foreseeable future.”
That plan would not be possible without the support of PennDOT and the Franklin County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The commissioners serve on the MPO, along with several representatives of local municipalities, PennDOT and other members of the general public. The MPO approved the use of the IIJA funds for county bridge replacement earlier this year when it added three bridge projects to the county’s Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP). The MPO is chaired by Sam Cressler, president of the Southampton Township Supervisors.
“Allocating the infrastructure bill funds to these bridge projects was a no-brainer,” said Cressler. “Transportation funding from the state and federal government has not been keeping up with demand. We have to use whatever funding opportunities that come along to avoid placing the burden on local property tax payers. Now, the next thing that needs to happen is that we need decision makers in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. to wake up and make widening I-81 a priority.”
To keep stock of the maintenance needs of county-owned bridges, Franklin County developed a bridge capital improvement plan (CIP) in partnership with its bridge engineering firm, Herbert, Rowland & Grubic Inc. The CIP outlines a strategy to manage the maintenance and replacement needs of county-owned bridges. The plan allows the county to identify the efforts needed and costs associated with maintaining bridges and replacing those that need to be replaced. The county also uses the CIP to identify possible funding streams that minimize any impact on the county’s general fund and taxpayer dollars.
Funding for Franklin County bridge projects comes from Pennsylvania’s liquid fuels tax, Marcellus Shale impact fees, and Act 89 of 2013, which revised the state’s gas tax system and increased fees for vehicle registration, permits and traffic violations. Franklin County also employs its own in-house bridge maintenance team instead of using outside contractors, a cost-savings effort that is unique in the Commonwealth and allows for the best use of available funds.
Additional information on Franklin County transportation policies and plans can be found on the Franklin County Metropolitan Planning Organization page of the county’s website, www.franklincountypa.gov.