At State of the County Address, Dauphin County Commissioners unveil groundbreaking program to fix all municipal- and county-owned bridges
HARRISBURG, PA (April 17, 2018) – In a first-of-its-kind program, Dauphin County will work with townships and boroughs to replace and repair all deficient bridges by 2021, the commissioners announced at their annual State of the County address on April 17.
“Almost every day we hear stories about infrastructure, but in Dauphin County, we are leading the state in making sure our roads and bridges remain safe,’’ said board Chairman Jeff Haste during the event at the Harrisburg Hilton. “Fixing or replacing a bridge can easily top $1 million – a big cost for many municipalities. We were determined to find a way to help.’’
Entering an unprecedented 13th year in a row without a county property tax increase, Haste said the new bridge program is the latest program to help townships and boroughs address crucial needs without having to raise taxes.
Using a mix of state and federal dollars, as well as money collected from $5 vehicle registration fees, the commissioners anticipate repairing or replacing 12 municipal bridges and nine county bridges. Under the program, municipalities will only be responsible for 40 percent of the cost and will be able to finance their share through the county’s Infrastructure Bank at interest rates expected to be less than 1 percent.
Created in 2013, the county’s Infrastructure Bank was the first in the state to provide low-interest loans to fund road and intersection improvements and other transportation-related projects. Since inception, it has helped a half-dozen municipalities.
“We’ve always focused on finding innovative ways to help our residents and grow our economy without resorting to using property taxes,’’ said Commissioner Mike Pries. “Another example of our comprehensive approach to economic development is our Transformation Initiative, which is giving new life to deteriorating industrial sites.’’
The initiative pulls together the county’s Redevelopment Authority, which oversees environmental assessments and can help market the properties. It also includes the county’s Land Bank, another first when created in 2013, which restores or demolishes vacant and blighted homes or commercial buildings. Dauphin was also one of only four Pennsylvania counties to receive an EPA grant to pay for environmental assessments of disused industrial sites, a critical step in readying them for redevelopment.
Among the projects moving forward as part of the Transformation Initiative is Steelton’s downtown Renaissance Row, featuring 80,000-square-feet of retail and 46 apartments, and the demolition of Millersburg’s former Reamer & Tool Co. to clear the land for redevelopment.
Commissioner George P. Hartwick, III announced that his focus in the coming year is “State of the Child” and announced an increased emphasis on early intervention to support children in the first five years of life and their families.
Dauphin was only one of eight counties in the country to receive a Pritzker Children’s Initiative planning grant to start developing and expanding programs aimed at ensuring children begin kindergarten ready to learn.
“Ensuring babies and infants receive the proper care is crucial to ensuring their success not only in school but as healthy and well-adjusted adults,’’ Hartwick said, adding an alarming 3 million of the nation’s children are at risk of reaching kindergarten not ready to learn. “We are going to focus on proven methods to look at all the problems facing our families and provide the best environment we can for our children.’’
Hartwick said the county is also reexamining the juvenile justice system and alternative programs that will enable offenders to go back to school and rejoin their families.
“If we don’t intervene early and effectively, the juvenile justice system is just a farm team for the adult system,’’ Hartwick said. “But if we invest in families and parents, every child can hit a home run or at least get a chance at bat.’’
During the State of the County address, the commissioners also highlighted:
Detweiler Park: a 411-acre jewel in Middle Paxton Township
Thanks to a generous donation from the Detweiler family and a combination of state grants and gaming money, the commissioners last summer opened the largest of the county’s eight parks.
Detweiler Park offers nine miles of walking trails and some of the best fishing around. Now the board is asking residents what they would like to see at the park. Visit www.detweilerpark.org for more info and to fill out a survey.
Continuing the battle against opioids
Earlier this year, the commissioners filed a lawsuit against 11 drug manufacturers and three doctors they say ignored the addictive and debilitating effect of opioids and aggressively marketed the painkillers to make billions in profit. The lawsuit demands the defendants pay their fair share for drug abuse treatment and prevention programs. Not only are overdose deaths claiming more lives than car accidents, but last year the county spent $19.6 million to help almost 3,000 people suffering from addiction – a nearly 860 percent increase.
The commissioners continue to expand the availability of treatment and prevention programs, including hiring mobile case managers to respond to emergency room overdoses and arrange for treatment and ensuring police and first responders have the overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan). They are also working with area treatment providers, such as Gaudenzia Common Ground, to expand the number of beds available for treatment.
25-year dream of linking Fort Hunter Park to Capital Area Greenbelt becoming reality
Adding the roughly 1.5-mile connector is among upgrades to six intersections and other improvements that are part of $7.5 million in upgrades expected to be completed by mid-2019. Between 100,000 to 400,000 visitors use sections of the Greenbelt every year, and the work ensures families from across the region will continue to have a safe and fun experience.
Improving public safety and helping first responders
From $75,600 to keep Central Dauphin School District student safer to $145,000 in new equipment for Harrisburg’s police, the commissioners approved $6 million in projects through money received as the county’s share of gaming revenue generated from Hollywood Casino at Penn National. In all, the projects are expected to attract almost $30 million in additional investment and create or retain more than 2,517 permanent or construction jobs.
To learn more and see the latest Dauphin County news, go to www.DauphinCounty.org.
Keeping our bridges safe now and in the future: Dauphin County Bridge Program
In a first-of-its-kind program, Dauphin County will work with townships, boroughs and Harrisburg City to replace and repair all structurally deficient bridges by 2021. The following are details about this far-reaching initiative:
Q: Are all the bridges in the county included in the program?
A: Yes, all county-owned and municipally-owned bridges are eligible for replacement and repair under the program. Nine county bridges and up to 12 municipal bridges may be included in the initial phase of this ongoing program. Bridges on state routes are owned and managed by PennDOT under a separate program.
Q: Will all the municipal structurally deficient bridges be part of the program?
A: It is up to the elected officials in each municipality to decide whether they want to take part. Over the next month, the county will be asking the officials if they want to participate.
Q: Which structurally deficient municipal bridges are potentially involved?
The following municipal bridges are eligible for replacement:
- Edward Street Bridge over Rattling Creek, Lykens. Estimated cost: $2 million.
- Two Mullberry Street Bridge sections over Paxton Creek, Harrisburg. Estimated total cost: $1.23 million.
- Walnut Street Bridge over Jonestown Road, Harrisburg. Estimated cost: $581,000.
- 13th Street Bridge over railroad tracks, Harrisburg. Estimated cost: $4.64 million.
- Market Street over Paxton Creek, Harrisburg. Estimated cost: $3.13 million.
- Under State Street over Paxton Creek, Harrisburg. Estimated cost: $3.61 million.
- Rummel Road Bridge over Powell Creek, Wayne Township. Estimated cost: $912,000.
- Bastian Road over Armstrong Creek, Jackson Township. Estimated cost: $825,000.
- Mcintosh Road over tributary to Paxton Creek, Lower Paxton Township. Estimated cost: $825,000.
- Lauffer Road over Iron Run, Londonderry Township. Estimated cost: $1.09 million.
- Camp Kiwanis T over Manada Creek, East Hanover Township. Estimated cost: $1.3 million
Q: What county-owned bridges are involved?
A: The following nine bridges are listed for $10.4 million in repairs that may include deck and superstructure replacements:
- Carsonville Road over North Fork Powell Creek, Jefferson Township. Estimated cost: $445,000.
- Swatara Creek Road over Iron Run, Londonderry Township. Estimated cost: $673,000.
- Oakshire Road over Beaver Creek, South Hanover Township. Estimated cost: $811,000.
- Machamer Avenue over Wiconisco Creek, Wiconisco Township. Estimated cost: $873,000.
- Fiddlers Elbow Road over Swatara Creek, Derry Township. Estimated cost: $3.79 million.
- Camp Hebron Road over Powell Creek, Halifax Township. Estimated cost: $1.03 million.
- Konick Road over Powell Creek, Halifax Township. Estimated cost: $777,000.
- Orange Street over Wiconisco Creek, Williams Township. Estimated cost: $984,000.
- Engle Road over Conewago Creek, Londonderry Township. Estimated cost: $1.04 million.
Q: What timetable is the county looking at to begin and complete the work?
Q: What is the source of the funding?
A: The project is using a combination of state and federal funding, including money received from PennDOT from taxes on liquid fuels and fees collected from the $5 vehicle registration fee. Additionally, because the county instituted the $5 vehicle registration fee, PennDOT is giving the county an additional $2 million.
Q: How does the program help municipalities pay to fix their bridges?
A: There is enough funding from the above sources for the county to cover 60 percent of the cost to replace the identified municipally-owned bridges. Additionally, if municipalities want to take a low-interest loan through the Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank, an additional 1.75 percent will be deducted from the interest rate. Based on current borrowing rates, that would mean an interest rate of less than 1 percent.
While in some cases the loan term may be longer, it is anticipated most municipalities will borrow the money over 10 years.
Q: If all the municipalities participate, does this mean there will be no structurally deficient bridges in the county?
A: While bridge maintenance and repairs are ongoing, at this point the work outlined will bring all locally owned bridges into full compliance.
Q: Why is this program significant?
A: Deteriorating bridges are safety hazard on many levels. Not only may they be unsafe to cross, but as they weaken they are load-posted, meaning heavier vehicles are restricted from crossing. Many times, this includes emergency vehicles, meaning that depending on the detour, it can take firefighters and ambulance crews longer to respond.
First-class roads and bridges are also important to quality of life and economic development. Job-creating companies want to expand or locate to areas that make fixing and maintaining infrastructure a priority.