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County Leveraging Local Registration Fee for Bridge and Road Projects

by and on August 04, 2019 5:00 AM

Since it was adopted in 2017, the county has brought in $785,561.93 from the $5 fee applied to vehicle registration for Centre County residents. County Administrator Mike Bloom gave an updated report to the county board of commissioners on July 30 about how the fee is being used.

Bloom said the county receives approximately $450,000 annually from the fee and $5,476.93 of the total amount is interest received on the assets.

The money is set aside for transportation improvement projects, with much of the funding budgeted for local bridge replacement and/or repair. Currently $400,000 has been allocated toward local bridge projects and $150,454 for local roadway projects.

The money is often used to help the county leverage funds from other state grant programs, allowing it to receive state funding to work local projects.

“I want to remind everyone that 100 percent of the fee for local-use funding goes for projects. There is no overhead. There is no administration. Nobody is raking anything off this,” said Commissioner Mark Higgins. “And because of that, our $550,000 of fees for local-use money has leveraged just under $2 million of state funding for the various projects you showed.”

Commissioner Steve Dershem said he was frustrated at the high cost of bridge projects.

“The frustrating thing for me is when I look at the cost (of repairing) of a small bridge in a rural community at $1.5 million, how did we come to have it cost $1.5 million dollars? It probably cost a small fraction of that when they were built,” said Dershem.

Bloom said that he too is frustrated by the high cost, but currently “it is the cost of doing business.”

The fee came about after the State Transportation Advisory Committee reported in 2010 that Pennsylvania’s transportation authority was underfunded by $3.5 billion. It also projected it could be underfunded by as much as $6.7 billion come 2020.

Needing money to get ahead of the issue, Act 89 of 2013 was passed by Pennsylvania’s state legislature. In the bill, local governments were given the option of implementing this $5 fee to repair transportation infrastructure.

Centre County adopted the ordinance on May 9, 2017 and it took effect in October 2017. The fee is currently set to expire in October 2022 unless the county votes to continue the program.

The state Department of Transportation collects the money and delivers Centre County a check twice per year, in June and December, to use as needed.

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Vincent Corso is writer for Town&Gown and the Centre County Gazette.
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