Transportation improvements coming

LEWISTOWN – The Mifflin County Planning Commission held its annual dinner meeting Thursday night to discuss what the commission had done for 2013.

Daniel Dunmire, chair of the Planning Commission, started off the meeting first by thanking all of those in attendance and to explain why the meeting is held annually.

“We hold this meeting to tell you what we did last year,” Dunmire said. “It is also a forum for the townships to learn about what issues may effect the county as a whole.”

The featured speaker of the evening was Deputy Secretary of Planning for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, James D. Ritzman. His presentation focused on the new transportation bill and how it could affect Mifflin County in the future.

“Over the next five year period you will see a great improvement on the state roads,” Ritzman said. “$2.3 to $2.4 billion more funds will be used to update, fix, and maintain roads over the the five-year period.”

Citing a local example, Ritzman said the Potters Mills Gap project will have the opportunity to move forward quicker than without the bill.

Ritzman continued to say that starting next year more and over the next five years, more money will be given to local governments for improvement projects.

“Local governments will see an 8 percent increase of money paid to them next year, and overall for the five-year period there will be an increase of 60 percent paid to them,” Ritzman said.

He continued saying that increases in funding increases the amount of money that can be used for local projects, both with and without the state help for projects that could include bridges or general improvement projects. Ritzman said throughout this next year there will be an increase of about $34 million extra funded man-hours for state road improvement projects.

“Without this bill, many of these projects would simply not have the manpower to allow these projects to get done,” he said.

Ritzman ended his presentation by saying that innovation has to continue and that the future is now.

“We need to know and understand the new technologies that will be on our roads,” Ritzman said. “If we can do that then we could be better prepared for the future.”

Also during the meeting, Bill Gomes, director of Planning and Development, presented the 2013 report which was approved by the Planning Commission. The report highlighted the update to the county comprehensive plan, the hazard mitigation plan, and the municipal waste management plan. The update is available through the Office of Planning and Development.

Gomes also presented the Planning Excellence Award to Kay Hamilton, for her service to the community through her work at Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital.