WILKES-BARRE — A new statewide initiative is expected to accelerate repaving work on interstate highways and attack potholes on other roads across Pennsylvania, including here in the Wyoming Valley.
Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Leslie S. Richards recently released details of “Resurface PA,” a $22.3 million pothole blitz designed to provide immediate repairs statewide through June 30, using nearly 30,000 tons of patching material.
Of that, $5.6 million worth of work is planned in PennDOT’s District 4, which covers Luzerne, Lackawanna, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne, and Wyoming counties, agency spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt said. One of the projects that has been accelerated is a resurfacing and bridge preservation project on I-81 covering 40.4 miles in Luzerne County.
Butch Frati, Wilkes-Barre director of public works, said he had not yet been notified of the project when contacted last week, but noted the city also has many potholes to tackle.
One of the more notable craters, on West River Street, between South and Ross streets, recently reopened and has led to many complaints.
That pothole was caused by utility company repairs, and Frati said he would be working with the company to get it repaired as soon as possible.
Potholes are, of course, hardly unique to this part of the state.
Pennsylvania’s aggressive freeze-thaw cycle — intensified by this winter’s dramatic temperature swings — has aggravated the problem, leading to Wolf’s announcement.
“This is a problem that plagues Pennsylvanians every year, but after this winter season we are accelerating repairs and much-needed projects to improve travel in the short-term and in the future,” Wolf said.
PennDOT crews are working vigorously to repair pothole damage on nearly 40,000 miles of state-owned roadway, addressing higher traffic roadways first and working on others as soon as possible, the agency said. Earlier repairs were temporary because long-lasting asphalt is not available until the weather warms and asphalt plants open operations.
Other new investments to help address the effects of this year’s particularly long and difficult winter include:
• $30 million in transportation infrastructure investment funding for interstate improvements.
• $60 million in PennDOT investments from interstate project bid savings being reinvested in resurfacing.
• $62 million in additional funding for interstate preservation projects.
Together, PennDOT said these commitments will make 17 interstate paving and preservation projects covering 255 miles happen at least two years sooner than scheduled, with projects beginning this year and next year. These accelerated projects, which will preserve the pavement surfaces for at least five to six years, build on the 85 interstate projects covering more than 775 miles that are underway or expected to begin or finish this year.
Through the end of April, PennDOT crews had used nearly 23,000 tons of asphalt repairing potholes statewide, equal to the weight of roughly 1,500 PennDOT dump trucks. In comparison, by the same time in 2017, PennDOT had used 15,418 tons of asphalt and 14,673 tons in 2016. PennDOT has spent more than $17 million on pothole repairs statewide through the end of April this year.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle