The Chester Valley Trail portion in Montgomery County
President Barack Obama is in Denver today to sign the $787 billion economic stimulus bill he won from Congress, a measure he hopes will start the nation on the long journey back to economic health.
Of the nearly trillion-dollar economic rescue package, $46 billion is slated to help shore up the country's crumbling infrastructure.
Chester County's shot in the arm will come in the form of one highway, one trail and one sidewalk project, for an expected $20.2 million in spending.
"We're looking over our list of projects, we have to have them to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission by the end of the month," said Eugene J. Blaum, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman.
"It's all very fluid right now," Blaum said.
If approved, the largest piece of the pie, $15 million, will go to the Chester Valley Trail, a 12-mile stretch that connects Exton with Montgomery County along an abandoned rail bed that parallels Route 30 and Route 202.
The stimulus funding will establish the trail from Route 29 in East Whiteland to Church Farm Lane in West Whiteland, Blaum said.
Another $5 million will be used to improve pavement and repair a bridge on the Exton Bypass from the Quarry Road ramps in East Caln to where the road connects with Route 202 in East Whiteland.
The bypass opened in December 1995.
Lastly, $1.2 million will be used for hundreds of curb ramps for sidewalks on state roads in urban settings in Chester County, Blaum said. The improvements are needed to bring the sidewalks into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. All of the counties in PennDOT's District 6, which includes Philadelphia and the four suburban counties, will be getting curb cuts.
In all, District 6 expects to get about $275 million from the stimulus bill for highway improvements, though Blaum points out that nothing is set in concrete.
Projects were selected for a variety of reasons.
They had to be either projects that could get into construction quickly from a design standpoint or projects that did not require a tremendous amount of design, Blaum said. And they had to be projects that did not require complicated municipal approvals that would require long, detailed review processes.
For example, the widening of Section 300 of Route 202, a 6.3-mile stretch of Route 202 from North Valley Road in Tredyffrin to the Route 30 Bypass in East Whiteland, was not selected because of the timing.
Blaum said PennDOT will not be ready to put out bids on the northern half of Section 300 until 2010 and the south half until 2011.
And lastly, because the
stimulus bill was designed to create jobs, PennDOT looked for projects that would use a cross-section of industries such as the curb ramps and the $60 million Girard Point Bridge project on Interstate 95 over the Schuylkill River.
The bridge, a double-decked cantilever bridge, is a "massive" project that will create employment opportunities for workers in such industries as paving, steel repair and painting.
The selection of projects in Chester County has come under criticism from state Rep. R. Curtis Schroder, R-155th, of Downingtown.
Chester County, the state's seventh-largest county in population and its fastest-growing and perhaps most economically diverse county, had only three projects listed, Schroder noted.
By comparison, neighboring Lancaster County had eight projects, Berks County had 11 projects and Westmoreland County — with 116,000 fewer people than Chester — had 14 projects.
While Blaum said he could not comment on counties outside his district, he noted that of the 13 projects in the five-county region, Chester County had three.