READING AREA TRANSPORTATION STUDY
MINUTES OF THE JOINT COORDINATING/TECHNICAL COMMITTEE MEETING HELD ON SEPTEMBER 21, 2017 AT THE READING REGIONAL AIRPORT
Michael Rebert, PennDOT 5-0*
Ray Green for Larry Shifflet, PennDOT Central Office
Donna Reed, City of Reading
James Mason, Berks County Planning Commission
Randall Swan, Reading Regional Airport Authority
Joseph E. Rudderow, III, 2nd Class Townships (Maidencreek Township)
Dave Kilmer, SCTA/BARTA
Stephen H. Price, Boroughs (Wernersville)
COORDINATING COMMITTEE MEMBERS NOT ATTENDING
Tony Sacco, 1st Class Townships (Cumru Township)
Kevin S. Barnhardt, County of Berks
Christopher Kufro PennDOT 5-0, Chair*
Ray Green, PennDOT Central
Alan D. Piper, Berks County Planning Commission
Tim Krall, City of Reading
Michael Golembiewski, Berks County Planning Commission
Dave Kilmer, SCTA/BARTA
Terry Sroka, Reading Regional Airport
Ralph E. Johnson, City of Reading
*Tie-breaking Vote only
Gene Porochniak, PennDOT Central Office
Kerry Fields, PennDOT 5-0
Shannon Rossman, Berks County Planning Commission
Regina Zdradzinski, Berks County Planning Commission
David Berryman, Berks County Planning Commission
John Slifko, City of Reading
Matt Boyer, Commuter Services
Craig Lutz, Senator Argall
Bill Royer, Rep. Ryan McKenzie
Andrea Bernet, Rep. Caltagirone
Jeanne Johnson, Cumru Township
Kim Mallatratt, Alsace Township
Brian Miller, STV Incorporated
Carol Riley, AIM
Felix Colon, AIM
Angel Torres, AIM
Beth Brelje, Reading Eagle
1. CALL TO ORDER
Chairman Rebert called the meeting to order at 1:34 p.m.
2. REVIEW AND APPROVAL OF COORDINATING COMMITTEE MINUTES OF JULY 20, 2017
CC Chairman Rebert asked if there were any questions or comments to the July 21, 2017 Coordinating Committee Meeting minutes.
MOTION: Mr. Green made a motion to approve the July 21, 2017 Coordinating Committee Meeting minutes. Ms. Reed seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
3. REVIEW AND APPROVAL OF TECHNICAL COMMITTEE MINUTES OF AUGUST 3, 2017
TC Chairman Kufro asked if there were any questions or comments to the August 3, 2017 Technical Committee meeting minutes.
MOTION: Mr. Golembiewski made a motion to approve the August 3, 2017 Technical Committee Meeting minutes. Mr. Green seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
4. BUSINESS FROM THE FLOOR
There was no business from the floor.
5. READING REGIONAL AIRPORT UPDATE
Mr. Sroka stated that in the beginning of October, major airport security fencing will begin. The 6 ft. fencing will be changed to 10 ft. fencing. Barbed wire will be added and gates and additional security cameras will be installed. This project will last approximately six months.
Mr. Sroka stated that the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum decided to demolish an old building and replace it with a storage facility as well as a hangar that would give them a better opportunity to do work on their P-61 and also to get their archives and collective material under a good roof. Mr. Sroka stated that construction will start on the north side of the airport in three weeks.
6. SOUTH CENTRAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY UPDATE
Mr. Kilmer stated that the TDP Update was kicked off last month, this is a major look at all of the services being provided in both counties. This will also determine if there is a need to provide service between Berks and Lancaster Counties. As a result of the merger, this question has been asked several times. We want to see if it is feasible and where people might want to travel to.
Mr. Kilmer stated that surveys will be conducted on the buses this fall. Community leaders will be interviewed and other types of surveying will be done to identify unmet service needs.
In both counties, for the entire month of October 2017, SCTA is running a special promotion of 25¢ per ride regardless of where the ride is. This was done in Lancaster County ten years ago and had a 37% gain in ridership for that month. It was a 4.5% fiscal gain in ridership that year. It was the largest ridership gain in their history. SCTA is experiencing downturns in ridership the past 1 ½ years. Low unemployment is not resulting in ridership. Low gasoline prices have hurt bus ridership as well.
Ms. Reed asked if there are specific routes that have caused ridership to dip or is it across the board. Mr. Kilmer said it is across the board in both systems. SCTA saw a 5% drop in ridership last year, which is pretty big and has not been experienced since 2008 when the stock market crashed. Chairman Rebert asked if this is a statewide issue. Mr. Kilmer stated that, according to the numbers, it is a nationwide issue with no apparent explanation.
Mr. Lutz stated that he is on the Board of Directors for Wernersville State Hospital. He asked if there is any way to get bus service to the hospital on weekends. Mr. Kilmer said that SCTA will look into this request.
7. COMMUTER SERVICES UPDATE
Mr. Boyer stated that September is Try-Transit Month. Commuter Services is working with the Downtown Transfer Station and riding the BARTA bus line back and forth to DEKA. There are thousands of workers in different buildings and they want to make them aware of routes in and out of the city or about the other routes that already exist.
During the past month, SCTA has been working with Sweet Street Deserts, Fleetwood Fixtures, Doubletree and Albright College. They had their first Career Contact Competition and a woman from Sweet Street Deserts in Berks County won the competition. This is all about the relationships with our organization, with her and the other employees.
Mr. Boyer stated that Commuter Service is in the process of looking at the feasibility of setting up Safe Routes to Schools programs across their service area. He asked if anyone is familiar with public outreach for Safe Routes to Schools programs that occurred in Berks County before or occurring now. They want to propose something through the MPO in order to provide better access for children to get back and forth to school where buses aren’t provided or where a sidewalk and cut curbs do not exist.
8. PENNDOT UPDATE ON MAJOR PROJECTS
Mr. Rudderow questioned why the major projects list has drifted back down on the meeting agenda. Mr. Piper stated that the only reason this was done is because this is a joint meeting today at the airport. It was an opportunity to give the Airport Authority and others the opportunity to give a presentation at the beginning of the meeting. It is not permanent and for today only.
Mr. Mason said that the new format for the Major Projects is fantastic. Mr. Swan seconded that comment. He does understand that putting this together in this format takes a lot of time and thought. It is a great starting point so we can sink our teeth into some of these major projects. That is why we are here.
Mr. Kufro gave the Major Projects update.
Mr. Rudderow asked if the buried tank issue was taken care of regarding the SR 222/662 intersection. Mr. Kufro stated that it is being worked on. Mr. Rudderow asked if any costs were added to that project. Chairman Rebert stated that the exact cost is unknown. They are working their way across the road removing the tanks. They are not stopping constructing just to pull the tanks. They are working across and pulling the tanks as they go. Mr. Rudderow asked how the tanks could get missed considering all of the preparation that goes into the project. Chairman Rebert said PennDOT knows where utilities are based on plans and do not bore holes in the middle of a road to see if there is anything there. Mr. Kufro stated that the Department was not expecting tanks to be in the middle of the road, but for future projects, we have to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Mr. Rudderow said he understands that there will be two turning arrows at the SR. 73/222 intersection. Rt. 222 north and south will have dedicated turning lanes with arrows and Rt. 73 will have turning lanes and arrows. He asked if this is accurate. Chairman Rebert said he does not know the details. Mr. Kufro said it sounds right but he would have to look at the whole layout. Mr. Rudderow said that if it is correct, it is great because that is what the township is asking for and it will help alleviate traffic through there.
Mr. Swan he noted that the May project list showed the estimated let date for the SR 222 Widening in 2020. Now the let date is estimated at 2023. Was this discussed at the last meeting? Chairman Rebert stated that, since the project is in Preliminary Engineering (PE), all of this is estimated. That let date may also shift to coincide with funding. As we get further through PE, we can fine tune when the actual let date will be. Mr. Swan stated that we are looking at major projects here. There are money and milestone dates. He is not sure if the delay is more important or rather that it appears there was a delay and it was not brought to the board’s attention. Chairman Rebert said he is not sure if a major snag was hit. It will take a while working through the environmental clearances. We are getting a better feel of the estimated Right-Of-Way impacts. Taking commercial or residential properties will take time. At this point, there are still a lot of unknowns and there were more unknowns when the original let date was set for 2020. Mr. Slifko stated that these are the major kinds of questions that we’re asked - when, what is the cost and if there were any changes. This spreadsheet is a great improvement, but can we also have listed the original let date, present let date, and explanation for the difference. Mr. Rudderow stated that he would like to see that added because the format is being improved. When we receive a packet in the mail, it can help us get through a meeting. He made a motion to add this information to the current format in order to help the board be better prepared for the meetings. He amended it to also include construction and costs. Mr. Swan seconded the motion. Chairman Rebert said a motion is not needed. The information can be added to the Major Project list. Mr. Lutz asked if the explanation for the change in the let date (reason for the 3-year delay) could be forwarded to his office. Mr. Kufro said, with a project like this, this early in the process and with such a large area, it is probably due to cultural resources. When the original schedule was set, you are unsure what you will run in to. When that happens, the schedule needs to be updated. There are periodic team meetings where the schedule is reviewed. Mr. Swan stated that he understands there are so many unknowns. It is not necessarily the fact that there is a delay; it is the process of how the information on that delay is presented. Mr. Swan requested a five minute presentation at the next meeting from PennDOT behind the reason for the delay on the US 222 Widening project. Chairman Rebert said that he will bring the board an explanation why the let date was moved. Mr. Swan asked for the estimated cost of this project. Chairman Rebert stated that right now there is about $30 million programmed for this project. More than likely that number will change.
Mr. Rudderow asked if the I-78 (12 M) Mainline Reconstruction project will help with the number of accidents. Mr. Piper stated that the truck climbing lanes will help. The fact that there will also be inside and outside shoulders on the roadway will give people room to recover. Right now there is no room for error. Bringing it up to current design standards will improve the safety in that area. Mr. Rudderow asked if it will be similar to the area from Lenhartsville west. Mr. Kufro said yes with wider shoulders.
Mr. Rudderow stated that the Penn Street Bridge project seems to be doing better than anticipated. Ms. Reed stated that all of the work being put into the project is greatly appreciated. Mr. Johnson stated that a lot of work went into the main detour route and the alternate detour route. A lot of the locals found other bridges to use. Mr. Piper found it a bigger issue when Buttonwood Street was closed. There were few choices of finding a way in and out of town other than the Penn Street Bridge. Once the Buttonwood Street Bridge was open, Penn Street had an additional avenue for relief. The Department and their construction staff have been very receptive to taking care of issues as they have arisen as early as the first day when the ramp was closed. Mr. Swan said that a lot of work went into the planning of this.
Mr. Piper mentioned two major projects happening adjacent to Berks County. In the Lehigh Valley, the section of I-78 that extends from the Berks County line to Rt. 100 will be another major repaving job. There will be work on the Rt. 78 Corridor over the next year.
Mr. Piper also stated that, on Rt. 422 as you leave Berks County (Pottstown & Stowe), there is a bridge under repair now. Starting next week, there is a second project for a complete reconstruction of the Pottstown Bypass that goes from that bridge back to the Berks County line. The project relocates the highway and will put in a new, improved interchange. Mr. Rudderow asked what would be the length of time on this project. Mr. Piper did not have a timeframe but guessed at least two years.
Mr. Lutz referred to the I-78 Krumsville Interchange project. He asked if PennDOT is looking at the warehouse going in out there. Chairman Rebert said there is a highway occupancy permit in the process. Some improvements need to be made as part of that warehouse project. It is not a major reconstruction of the intersection. Chairman Rebert said that the developer must pay for any improvements their traffic triggered. It is one warehouse and is not much of a traffic impact locally, but trucks will be rolling through that intersection.
Mr. Swan asked about the bridge over Angelica Creek (Rt. 724). Mr. Piper said it should be completed by next week. Mr. Swan asked if that bridge was part of the Rapid Bridge Replacement Program. Mr. Piper said no. Mr. Swan asked why it is not a part of that program. Mr. Kufro said it was only a super structure replacement and not a totally new bridge.
Mr. Rudderow asked, as the bridges are reconstructed, if the weight limit previously placed on bridges will drift back in place or stay at a reduced rate to preserve the bridge for 25 years longer. Mr. Kufro stated that when bridges are new or are fixed, there is no load posting on them.
9. PENNDOT REQUESTED AMENDMENTS/MODIFICATIONS TO FFY 2017 TIP
Ms. Fields gave an update on Amendments/Modifications to FFY 2017-2020 Highway TIP from July 27, 2017 through September 13, 2017.
Amendments - There were no Amendments during this period.
Administrative Actions - There were 17 Administrative Actions impacting the Reading TIP. Two actions assigned funding to begin Preliminary Engineering for the following bridges: SR 2041 (Weavertown Road) over Monocacy Creek in Amity Township; SR 2021(Forgedale Road) over Bieber Creek in Rockland Township; and Gibraltar Road (local) over Antietam Creek in Exeter Township. Another action provided funding for traffic signal improvements in the City of Reading and Fleetwood, St. Lawrence, West Reading and Wyomissing Boroughs. The balance involved reallocating funds within existing projects to account for changing needs.
Mr. Piper stated that the signal projects are all related to PennDOT’s Green-Light-Go Program – a competitive grants program that municipalities must apply for.
Mr. Rudderow asked if the fiscal year ends on September 30th, is all of the shifting of the money due to the end of the fiscal year. Ms. Fields said we must allocate all of the money this year. Mr. Piper said it is close because we are in the middle year of a TIP period. It means more when we get to the end of a TIP period because in this middle year we can have some money that sits and rolls over a little. At the end of a TIP period, there is a line where if funds are not allocated to a project, the funding is gone.
10. SCTA REQUESTED MODIFICATIONS TO TRANSIT FFY 2017 TIP
Mr. Kilmer stated that these are Administrative Actions to reflect the actual funding that SCTA is going to receive. When the initial Transit TIP was developed, there was only a partial apportionment because Congress only gave five months of funding under a Continuing Resolution. Once we found out the final amounts, then the TIP must be adjusted to show the correct amounts. There was a reduction in the apportionment.
11. UPDATE ON TAS-A PROGRAM SCHEDULE
Mr. Piper stated that we are in a new funding cycle for the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside program. Applicants have until the close of business tomorrow to complete their applications and submit them. If you haven’t started an application yet, you won’t get funding. This is because applicants are required to meet with the MPO and the Department before applications are submitted or the applicant will automatically be eliminated from the program. Mr. Piper stated that they have met with nine different municipalities regarding potential projects. By the end of next week, PennDOT will have received all of the submitted applications electronically and will then redistribute them back to the MPO’s and the statewide body that is going to be looking at these programs. Reviews and recommendations of projects in our area must be done by the end of 2017.
Mr. Piper stated that there is a certain amount of money available to be allocated by the MPO. Anything that goes beyond that ($556,000 over a two year period) would be a candidate for using state funding, which is up to $55 million available.
Mr. Piper stated that the MPO will need to review the projects, rank them and make a recommendation on the use of our dollars. We will then forward those recommendations to the state for them to consider funding under the statewide allocation. It is anticipated that the review will be done by the Technical Committee prior to their November meeting. At the next (November) Coordinating Committee meeting, recommendations with prioritizations and potential use of funding for the projects will be discussed. This will include a recommendation on what we would like to forward to the state for their funding consideration.
12. REVIEW/RECOMMENDATION OF PROPOSED TA-SA FUNDING POLICY
Mr. Piper stated that there were discussions regarding having a policy for the program on how to treat budget overages on projects included on the TIP under this program. They are given an initial allocation based on their application. The federal and state policy that runs this program says that every candidate is responsible for anything that goes over their grant award. There were opportunities in the past for the MPO to provide supplemental funding towards these projects. There was never an official policy of how to do that. There were never any rules that state how much or whether or not we are sharing costs with the project applicant regarding overages.
At the direction of the board, a draft policy was put together. It was reviewed with the Technical Committee and identified issues were corrected. The recommendation is that, beginning with the current program, any contributions to projects that go to over their approved funding will be restricted to 20% of the amount that is over budget up to a maximum of $15,000 per project. Anything over that 20% or $15,000 would be the responsibility of the project sponsor. For any project where the bids come in more than 50% over budget, a recommendation would be made that the project would need to be re-scoped and rebid in order to get back in line with the allocated resources.
Mr. Piper stated that this policy would only apply to those projects that are funded out of the MPO’s allocation and would not apply to projects funded out of the statewide allocation. We receive over $500,000 every two years. Some of the projects that are funded out of the state application could be anywhere from that amount to $1 million or more. These are significantly different ranges for projects we didn’t fund.
Because this is a joint meeting, we will need 2 actions; one from each committee. Mr. Swan asked if this policy is along the same guidelines as the PennDOT policy. Mr. Piper stated that the statewide guidance says that anything that goes over budget is the applicant’s responsibility. They have occasionally provided additional funds for projects on a case-by-case basis. We do not guarantee that there will be funding available for any overages. Only “if” funds are available in the local TIP, will we have the opportunity to apply this policy.
Mr. Piper stated that normally we fully allocate all of the available dollars to projects. The only reason that we had supplemental funds available in the past to allocate funding is because a project or projects that we approved was cancelled without advancing to construction. We want good projects coming in so project won’t get cancelled. The process has changed over the years with applicants now having to meet with the MPO and District personnel to review the project as far as eligibility and scope in terms of the project, cost schedule and process. We try to come up with a project that better fits before applications are submitted. In the event that funding is available that can be applied to projects, this policy would be used to address overages. Mr. Lutz asked if there was a problem in the past and is that why this policy came up.
Mr. Piper said that sometimes we have the dollars and sometimes we don’t. There is no provision for someone who may have an application that received our recommendation but their project came in well over the anticipated costs. Then we would be looking for matching dollars. There was no responsibility put back on the project sponsor who put the application together to make it work. There needs to be a shared responsibility in moving forward with this policy. Mr. Swan said that state says that if you go over the cost, it is the sponsor’s problem. Mr. Piper agreed. Mr. Piper said that the MPO is not agreeing to fund 20% more. Funding would only cover 20% of the overage capped at $15,000. The sponsor would be responsible for 80% of the overage up to $15,000 and anything beyond that amount. Mr. Piper said the state’s official policy is the sponsor is responsible; however, it still goes by a case by case negotiation. Mr. Swan said the state provides additional funding, but does not have a policy. Mr. Piper agreed. Mr. Green noted that the state occasionally has bid savings and these savings can be reapplied to the program. Mr. Golembiewski asked if a project is funded solely under the state program, and something like this happens, does the sponsor still have the opportunity to come back to us and ask for additional funding under the proposed policy. Mr. Piper said not under the proposed policy. This policy applies only to the dollars that are allocated through the Reading MPO. Any requests for additional dollars for state-funded projects would go through the state and not our TIP.
Mr. Price questioned where these potential funds would come from. Would it be taken from another project? Mr. Piper said in the past that is where it came from. The majority of the funds that we distributed came from cancelled projects. In other cases, funds came from the Surface Transportation Program (STP), which is federal dollars that also can be used for highway projects. The Transportation Alternatives Program is sub category of this funding program. Occasionally, some STP program funds were tapped to finish off Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) projects. In most cases, this happened at the end of a TIP period where the case is “use it or lose it”. There are more than enough instances where there are projects where we need to use federal dollars towards highway and bridge projects; not these types of projects.
Mr. Rudderow asked how the $15,000 and the 20% were agreed upon. He was trying to figure what the rationale was. Mr. Piper stated that it was originally set at 15% and $15,000 by the Technical Committee, in recognition of the fact that there could be good reasons why a project goes over budget that are beyond the applicant’s ability to anticipate. The percentages allowed this burden to be shared by the MPO and the applicant and the cap ensured that we were not regarding projects that were unreasonably outside of their original budgets. It was discussed further at the last meeting and was agreed to be increased to 20% and hold the $15,000 cap. Mr. Rudderow asked if this is reasonable. Mr. Piper stated that, in most cases, we would probably fund a project in the $200,000-$300,000 range. A number was picked so there would be a penalty on the applicants for projects that were not properly scoped. Mr. Rudderow asked if the discussion was open to a change to 10% with a $10,000 cap.
Mr. Piper said the decision on applying the policy this needs to happen pretty quickly. Things come up that are unexpected. We do not know what that overage is until applicants go through the bidding process and there is a limited period to accept or reject the bid. We do not want to build in a guaranteed overage. We are willing to share but the applicant must share too. Mr. Rudderow asked what the downside is of 10% vs. 20%. Mr. Piper said there is no downside to the MPO. It depends what you want the applicant to pay. Mr. Swan agreed with Mr. Rudderow. Dollars are tight. Mr. Rudderow argued that this is taxpayers’ money. Mr. Piper said that under the new guidance, applicants are given the room to build a cost escalation into their application. In the past, applicants would lowball their projects because they thought it would help their project get approved and then they could not do the project for the amount they applied for. He wants this policy to have teeth to it so the applicants are more aware of the real costs and are paying attention to building in the costs according to the federal regulations. Costs need to include construction, inspection, and any other related items. When we have a highway or bridge project, a current cost estimate is calculated and then a “Year of Expenditure” cost is programmed. Applicants have been told to come up with the best estimate for the costs of the project now, and add all of the contingencies. Once you get to the bottom line, the Year of Expenditure (adding 3% per year up to when the project will be let) should be calculated. It is not an increase in the scope; it is a Year of Expenditure. That is the same 3% used in every PennDOT project identified in the TIP as the project is moved out.
Mr. Rudderow is in favor of the policy but he thinks it should be 10% and $10,000. Mr. Johnson said that he sees the opposite way. In the market today, you don’t know what you will run into and he would recommend a higher share. Mr. Price said, in the grand scheme of things, these are tiny projects we are talking about. Mr. Piper said some of them are; some are larger-especially the state-funded projects.
MOTION from TC: Mr. Kilmer made a motion to recommend approval of the policy and keep the funding rate at 20% of the overage up to a maximum of $15,000. Mr. Golembiewski seconded the motion. The motion passed 7-1. Mr. Johnson opposed the motion.
MOTION from CC: Mr. Price made a motion to approve the policy and keep the funding rate at 20% of the overage up to a maximum of $15,000. Mr. Kilmer seconded the motion.
Mr. Rudderow disagrees with the motion and says it should be 10% and $10,000. This is taxpayer’s money. He says that 10% most times is an accepted percent when townships did roadwork. He thinks this is a more appropriate number than the 20% and $15,000. Mr. Rudderow said we either agree with their motion or not. He suggested amending their motion to reflect 10% and $10,000. Ms. Reed agreed. Mr. Price stated this is such a small amount of money. Mr. Rudderow stated that this affects the Townships of the 2nd Class, which is who he is representing. Mr. Piper noted that most of the applicants are municipalities. Reducing the amount we (the MPO) are putting in is making Berks County municipalities pay that extra difference. Mr. Rudderow said that it all comes out of the taxpayers’ pockets. Mr. Swan says every dollar counts. Here we have a township representative asking for less flexibility and that is something to listen to. He agrees with 10% and $10,000. Chairman Rebert, from a PennDOT perspective, said being off bid by 10% is a good estimate. Talking about township road work is easier to get right. These (TAP projects) are not simple jobs. He thinks that 20% and $15,000 is a reasonable starting point.
AMENDED MOTION from CC: Mr. Price made a motion to approve the policy and set the funding rate at 10% of the overage up to a maximum of $10,000. Mr. Rudderow seconded the amended motion and it passed without opposition.
13. REPORT ON TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT PROCESS
Mr. Piper reviewed materials provided relating to the Transportation Improvement Program update. There is an Appendix 5 - 2019 Transportation Program Development Schedule chart in the packets. At this point, we know what resources are available. The Department has already acted to review the current projects to update their schedules and their costs. Potential new projects are being looked at. MPO staff met with Department staff regarding four different project categories. We looked at recommendations in the out years of the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) to advance some of them into the TIP. We looked at project recommendations coming out of our Congestion Management Process. We met with the Department staff regarding Asset Management and looked at the next rounds of bridges based on structural deficiency and pavement based on its condition. We will continue to meet with them to refine those projects and start matching those projects with the dollars we have available.
Final Financial Guidance
There is an Appendix 1 chart in the packets. Mr. Piper said that this shows all of the federal and state dollars available to the state broken out by their funding categories. Appendix 2 shows these funds allocated by formula to the specific planning regions across the state, and a four-year composite of all of the dollars available to us over that period. It ends up being just under $270 million in total funds available to the Reading MPO during the four-year period FFY 2019 through FFY 2022. This does not include the interstate projects. They are funded out of the Interstate’s own TIP. The last page (Appendix 5) provides Financial Guidance for Transit projects available out of this proposal.
The Coordinating Committee members were provided a much more detailed document in their packets, which is Pennsylvania’s 2019 Transportation Program Financial Guidance. This is received from the Department and explains how those dollars are arrived at, how they are allocated and the various processes that we need to follow to use them.
In additional to dollars available through formula programs and allocations, in the past we would apply for Spike funds. These are dollars that are available at the Secretary of Transportation’s discretion. Beginning with last year, the current administration elected to not solicit uses for those dollars but they remain committed to any funds that were previously approved for Spike funding up until the point the projects are completed.
In regards to the Spike funding, Mr. Piper said that there are three specific funding categories. They are: 1) The NHPP – These are the higher order of federal funds used for Interstates, expressways and major arteries; 2) STP – Surface Transportation Program funds available to any portion of the Highway System; and 3) State funds.
There is just under $200 million dollars a year that is allocated in Spike funds out of the NHPP. Almost all of those projects are going towards Interstate restoration across the state. Berks County will be receiving $65 million that will go to the I-78 (12 M) project, which has already been accounted for in all of our budgets. It is not new money but money that was previously approved and is continuing to carry on the program. Over the course of this program and nine years after that, there is no additional Spike funding allocated to Berks County from that particular program. Some reserves are still available over the out years but these are not real big dollars. The majority of the funding included in this particular category goes to reconstruction of the I-83 Capital Beltway and the northern portion of I-83 in York County, major rehabilitation of the Schuylkill Expressway, a statewide interstate preservation program, and some money to I-84 in the northeastern part of the state.
Out of the Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds, there is roughly $44 million available per year. Berks County has not received any funding from this program. The majority of the money is going to I-95 in the east and to I-376, a major bridge in the western part the state. There are also Line Items for Transportation Systems Maintenance and Operations at a statewide level. There is money included as a state match or bonus dollars for those counties that have adopted the $5 registration fee. Berks County did adopt that fee and we made a request to the Department under the RoadMAP Program. This will allow us to use our $5 registration fee to match dollar for dollar from the state up to an additional $2 million. We received verbal approval to use $2 million from this program.
There is an additional allocation that is growing from $127 million to $144 million over the next four years for State Spike allocations. There is no direct allocation to Berks County out of this program. The majority of the dollars in the program are going towards Interstate projects, the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway project (US 15 from Harrisburg to I-80) and the funding source for the state Rapid Bridge Replacement Program.
In summary, we are receiving $65 million for I-78 plus the $2 million in bonus money for the matching amount for the $5 registration fee from the Spike funds in addition to our normal allocation.
State Transportation Commission Survey Results
Earlier in the year, we participated in the State Transportation Commission’s survey. In March, the Secretary holds a statewide public meeting via webinar. People have an opportunity to participate in that or to go online to complete surveys. The MPO and various partners around Berks County did a good job of soliciting input to that. We used every media format to get the survey out when that was happening.
Statewide, there were 3,500 transportation concerns that were identified. In Berks County, there were 250 that were identified. The majority of these concerns were addressed to the US 222 and US 422 Corridors. There were other projects scattered around the county as well. They have been included in a memorandum provided to the committees.
In addition to highways, responders to the survey also identified bicycle/pedestrian and public transit issues. There were 370 surveys received from Berks County participants. Of the participants, there were 44% of men and 56% of women that replied. The majority of the participants were between the ages of 35-64 years old. The majority of the people drive alone, followed by walking and then ride sharing. Participants were asked what their priorities are as to where they would like to see dollars in their region spent. The top three priorities were for improvements to traffic flow, roadway pavement and bridges.
Scorecard of Influence
There is a Scorecard of Influence in the packets. Mr. Piper explained that this is the state establishing targets for what they would like their system to be. The goal is to manage the assets in the best way possible. A baseline needs to be established for the metrics being used. It is the end of the year report for 2016. We will always be a year or two behind. Projects under construction or just finished within the past few months do not get applied to this report, but will be in the next update.
The highway system is broken down into different categories. The interstate system is not included. The NHS includes the major corridors like US 222, US 422, Rt. 6l, etc. The goal on this plan is that there should be less than 5.5% of total bridge deck area rated as structurally deficient. We are now at 15.2%, which is lower than two years ago.
Mr. Piper stated that our bridges are worse than our pavements. For the International Roughness Index (IRI), the NHS goal is 12.5%. Our pavement is now at 13% and coming down. All other roadway categories met the pavement goals.
For Non-NHS bridges with greater than 2,000 ADT, the goal is 10.9%. We are now at l4.4%. This is a significant decrease over what it was two years ago. In the Non-NHS bridges, less than 2,000 ADT, the goal is 12.7% and we are at 21.8%. It is less than 1% over what it was two years ago. We get hit the hardest on the local bridges greater than 20 feet. The goal is 15.4% of structurally deficient deck area. We show up at 46.4%, which is highest in the state. One of the bridges included in this is Buttonwood Street. All of the deck area for the Buttonwood Street Bridge has already been repaired, but does not show up in the report. That is the equivalent of 15-20 other local bridges being repaired. That will make a big difference in the next update. Mr. Swan asked if we are going in the right direction. Mr. Piper said definitely. Mr. Swan asked if we will see this scorecard every year. Mr. Piper said we would receive the scorecard with each TIP update (every two years). Mr. Swan said the scorecard is a great idea and will anxiously await next year’s scorecard to compare it to this years’.
Mr. Piper stated that the scores we receive come with strong recommendations in terms of how state and federal dollars are allocated into the TIP. In the NHS, because we are over the 11% criteria, we are strongly recommended to spend 60% of all of the flexible dollars available in our program on bridges. The Flexible Program includes dollars in the NHPP, STP, 58l (state highway) dollars, and 185 (state bridge) dollars. There will be a high level of bridge projects included in the TIP.
Mr. Piper stated that there is also a recommendation that says, if you don’t make your mark in pavement or bridge goals, there will be a restriction in how dollars will be allocated towards new capacity projects. We cannot allocate more than 5% of our flexible dollars towards new capacity. That restricts us to approximately $10.5 million in this TIP towards new capacity. Until we get bridges down to under that 5.5%, we are restricted to 5% of the flexible dollars in new capacity. Mr. Swan asked if this would include the widening of 222 North. Mr. Piper said yes but it is still in the program. Mr. Swan said the priority is to fix the bridges so we can begin to address our capacity. Mr. Piper agreed. Mr. Swan asked what the goal is for next year. Chairman Rebert stated that the bridges on the NHS system that are causing the number to be up is primarily the Penn Street Bridge and the bridges on the West Shore Bypass. We need to start advancing them into the system. Mr. Kufro said that the Penn Street Bridge will not come off the list until construction is completed. Chairman Rebert said that we have the Penn Street Bridge under construction and are stuck between a rock and a hard place on the West Shore Bypass. We are in a spot where the 15.2% might not get down to 5.5% very soon. Mr. Swan said that we could fix every bridge in Berks County and still not get down to 5.5%. Chairman Rebert said there are three very long bridges on the West Shore Bypass. Mr. Piper said he has no problem with this policy except that, if you get into a conundrum like this, following the policy does not let you address it. It may take having to talk to Harrisburg regarding what we are defining as capacity adding dollars. Are we fixing a bridge and providing additional capacity? At the same time, does that count as capacity adding or does that just count as fixing the bridge? Mr. Swan said that we are not widening US 222 north because it is capacity adding; it is because it is a safety issue.
Mr. Lutz asked which bridges are structurally deficient. Mr. Kufro mentioned the bridge over the Thun Trail located between Penn Street and Lancaster Avenue. Mr. Kufro stated that the TIP addresses a lot of SD deck area. Ms. Reed mentioned the railroad bridge over the bypass. Mr. Piper said it does not count towards that square footage of deck area because they are not highway bridges. Chairman Rebert said that this policy is not restricting us at this time. We are not ready to construct either of these projects (222 Widening or West Shore Bypass). No resistance has been met in discussing this issue with the Secretary of Transportation. They realize what we are up against. The West Shore Bypass will be a $500-$700 million job. RATS will only receive $65 million each year and cannot just pay this with RATS money. A financial plan needs to be developed regarding this situation. Mr. Swan considers these committees a team and said the Department is not alone. This group here knows a lot of people and with working on bridge and safety issues; we are all in this together. The more PennDOT lets us know about issues like this, the more we can work better as a team to move these projects forward.
Mr. Piper stated that the next step will be to keep meeting with staff over the next few weeks. Hopefully there will be a preliminary TIP to present at the next meeting.
14. OTHER BUSINESS
· Mr. Golembiewski stated that last Monday and Tuesday, the Commonwealth hosted their first Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Summit. It addressed the up and coming technologies. The safety implications are huge and there are sociological implications from those vehicles that will ultimately drive themselves. A car can be ordered and take the person where they want to go even if the person does not have a driver’s license or cannot physically drive a vehicle.
There are specific systems in vehicles today which include collision avoidance, lane detection, and blind spot monitoring. Pennsylvania has become a leader in the testing of autonomous and connected vehicles. These are two separate things: Autonomous vehicles ultimately will be driverless, while Connected vehicles actually talk to each other and the network. Safety is the largest benefit of the technologies. The trucking industry is a huge advocate in this technology.
Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is where the testing has begun along with Penn State and University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Technology firms and auto makers are very involved with this.
Mr. Golembiewski stated that this was the first summit. The point was made clear that the summit and testing are things Pennsylvania needs to continue. Policy, legal aspects, and platooning of trucks was also looked at. Right now, it is 10% fuel savings and much better safety for trucks. The problem is that anti-tailgating laws prevent it. State policy needs to change. This is on a 50-state basis. As this rolls out nationwide, FHWA is playing a big role as individual state legislatures. How will this affect transit over time as individuals vehicles become more available? Transit is already connected. Technology will have a huge effect on vehicle ownership and driver licensing over time. We will no longer see owning a car as something we do; it will be purchasing transportation as a service. How will this affect the insurance industry? All of the above issues were discussed at the summit.
Mr. Golembiewski stated that the message to the MPO is to make sure safe roads keep getting built and are well maintained to ensure vehicles themselves can use the roadway systems.
· Ms. Rossman thanked Dave Berryman, our Transportation Planner II. He was worked with us for 2 ½ years. He has accepted a position with Tower Health. Mr. Piper thanked Dave for everything he has done for us regarding the Long Range Transportation Plan and the various elements that went into it. It was a major change and major improvements.
· Mr. Piper stated that the next Coordinating Committee meeting will be Thursday, November 16, 2017. He asked the Technical Committee if there was a need to meet again in two weeks. There was not and the October 5th meeting was cancelled. The next Technical Committee meeting will be on November 2, 2017.
· Mr. Torres stated that a member of their Consumer Action Group had questions about cement work done on the Penn Street Bridge. Chairman Rebert asked if the gentleman could e-mail him the details and he would pass it along.
MOTION: Mr. Rudderow made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Ms. Reed seconded the motion and the meeting was adjourned at 3:25 PM.
/s/Alan D. Piper
Alan D. Piper