State and trade say cash from the federal infrastructure deal will assist, nevertheless it solely goes up to now
Under the federal legislature agreement, Pennsylvania is expected to receive billions of dollars for infrastructure projects over the next five years.
All told, there is at least approximately $ 18 billion in new and recurring funds for Keystone State included in the bill signed by President Joe Biden last month, according to Governor Tom Wolf’s office. Both heads of state and industry experts who spoke to WITF’s Smart Talk on Tuesday were delighted with the agreement.
“This sends out a signal that the government can still work,” said Gene Barr, CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. “It happened. We pulled it together. It’s paid for … it’s all very positive.”
Environment minister Patrick McDonnell noted the $ 1.4 billion the state will receive over the next five years for improving drinking water and water treatment systems. That includes paying for the removal of lead pipes that still serve households in places like Pittsburgh and York.
“Getting an infusion of cash there is critical,” said McDonnell.
But they also said the money won’t be as effective as they hoped because it has to be spread across thousands of projects awaiting funding.
“Once you start breaking it down into all of the different kinds of infrastructures we have across the Commonwealth, it doesn’t make as much money as you would think,” said Cathy Farrell of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
For example, $ 1.6 billion is being allocated to repair or replace some of the 3,300+ bridges that engineers believe are in poor condition. That’s part of the $ 4 billion in new money the state is getting for road and bridge projects.
But Larry Shifflet, deputy minister of planning for the Department of Transportation, said new bridge funds are not enough to fully fund nine intergovernmental bridge projects the agency is looking at. That means the agency must continue to consider paying drivers at least $ 1 to $ 2 each to pay for these fixes.
“Yes, the interstate system would get some or part of that $ 1.6 billion, but not the full $ 1.6 billion,” Shiflitt said.
The agency announced earlier this year that it is spending $ 6.9 billion a year on bridge projects, but estimates it would need $ 15 billion to keep them properly up and running. Overall, according to PennDOT, PennDOT needs to close an annual funding gap of more than $ 9 billion to keep highways and bridges functional.
In addition, each of the thousands of bridge projects that state and local agencies could fund will take “years,” Shiflitt said. “You have to go through the technical part of it, you have to go through the approving part of it and then the actual construction part of it.”
A similar pent-up demand has built up in other infrastructure areas.
DEP Secretary McDonnell said the agency will receive $ 400 million over the next five years to limit orphaned gas wells. These wells are known to leak climate-warming methane, and McDonnell says the state has spent nearly $ 40 million over the past few decades to plug them.
But, as StateImpact Pennsylvania reports, there are more than 8,800 documented wells in western Pennsylvania alone that have been abandoned or disconnected while potentially hundreds of thousands of others remain undetected.
“In connection with [those] Wells, that’s not a lot of money, but in the context that we’ve been busy plugging wells across the state, this is really game-changing money, “said McDonnell.
The new infrastructure money will have to be spent by governments over the next five years, which means they may need to raise more money to keep some projects going after that.
At the same time, the state has access to yet another pool of new federal money that the US Treasury Department said can be used in part on infrastructure projects: the $ 5 billion in funds from the American Rescue Plan that it has hidden in savings .
That pool must be used by 2024, and state lawmakers have already spent part of the original $ 7.3 billion package in the latest state budget.