By Jenny Jones
The Pennsylvania State Transportation Commission’s newly updated 12-Year Program, known as TYP, took effect on Oct. 1, in line with the federal fiscal year. The $84 billion program includes $18.9 billion from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — also referred to as the bipartisan infrastructure law. This funding will allow the state to complete its expected infrastructure improvements while adding new work to the program. That means more opportunities for engineering and construction firms.
In accordance with a 1970 Pennsylvania law, Act 120, the commission is required to update the TYP every two years. The secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation chairs the commission, which counts among its members 10 appointed citizens as well as the majority and minority chairs of the state House and Senate transportation committees.
The commission coordinates biennially with PennDOT and the state’s 23 metropolitan and rural planning organizations to update the program through an 18-month process. That process includes public input at the state and local levels and culminates with approval from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
When updating the TYP, the commission and its partners, including the metropolitan and rural planning organizations, identify and prioritize projects impacting all modes of transportation statewide — including roads, bridges, transit systems, airports, and railroads — and the funds needed to complete them.
To move forward, projects must be included in the program, making it a valuable resource for engineering firms as they consider projects for bid. “The program allows us to review what projects may be forthcoming and where there might be opportunities for us and other engineering firms to pursue this work,” says John Caperilla, EIT, A.M.ASCE, who is a project manager with McTish, Kunkel & Associates and ASCE’s Region 2 governor.
Federal funding allocation
The TYP is segmented into three four-year periods. The first period, known as the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, is particularly noteworthy because it includes projects that are either in the works or are slated for design or construction to begin soon, which could mean future opportunities for engineering firms, says Larry Shifflet, PennDOT’s deputy secretary for planning.
Including all funding, not just that related to the bipartisan infrastructure law, the 2023 STIP includes about $16 billion for highway and bridge projects, $11.4 billion for public transit, $331 million for multimodal projects, $232 million for rail freight, and $168 million for aviation.
Much of the state’s allocation of bipartisan infrastructure law funding will support highway and bridge projects, with $4 billion of federal funding from the law going to those projects over the first five years alone. “A good chunk of what we are receiving is going to highway and bridge projects, but certainly public transit and some of the other modes did see a little bit of that federal funding coming their way,” Shifflet says.
Recognizing that the bipartisan infrastructure law is set to expire in 2026, as the first period of the 2023 TYP closes, the commission and its partners have spread the state’s federal funding allocation over the program’s four periods. “We’re seeing just shy of a $19 billion increase over the 2021 12-Year Program, and that’s largely due to the passage of the federal infrastructure bill,” Shifflet explains. “What we have done in the past with federal infrastructure laws, like the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, and what we did with this update was continue that newly increased federal funding out through the remaining second and third four-year periods of the 12-Year Program.”
Projects worth noting
Shifflet calls the bipartisan infrastructure law funding “monumental” for the state. It ensures that PennDOT and its partners can complete the projects they were expecting to complete within the previous TYP while also adding new design and construction in the first four years of the updated TYP. “Without it, we would have had to have had some very hard discussions in looking at delaying or maybe even cutting some projects out of the 12-Year Program,” he says. “The funding was a game changer in that respect.”
While the bipartisan infrastructure law funding saves PennDOT and its partners from having to forgo projects in the TYP, it does not cover all the state’s unmet infrastructure needs. “In the summer of 2021, we were facing about $9.3 billion in unmet needs, so while the federal bill helps us continue down a fairly good path as a department, it does not help us meet all of our unmet needs from an infrastructure standpoint,” Shifflet says.
Still, the funding will help PennDOT and its partners address many ambitious projects. According to Shifflet, some of the most notable include:
- An Interstate 80/I-99 interchange project in Centre County, which is anticipated to begin in summer or fall 2023.
- A U.S. 219 project in Somerset County, which is in the design phase and will continue preconstruction in 2023.
- Work on I-70 in southwestern Pennsylvania, which has been ongoing for almost a decade to upgrade the main thoroughfare as well as the interchanges to modern design standards.
- I-83 network upgrades around Harrisburg and York, which will be unfolding over the years to come.
“These are some of the larger projects, at least from a dollar perspective,” Shifflet says.
Positive industry impact
Advancing these and other projects outlined in the plan will improve conditions for the traveling public, the surrounding communities, and the state at large. “The (bipartisan infrastructure law) has already made a noticeable impact on transportation projects in Pennsylvania across all modes,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian, P.E., is quoted as saying in a press release. “While additional investment in our large transportation network is certainly needed, PennDOT takes pride in being a responsible steward of federal, state, and local dollars to help improve infrastructure across all modes.”
A longtime advocate for increased state and federal infrastructure investment, Caperilla notes that the funding will also benefit the engineering and construction industries. “The passage of the IIJA back in the fall (of 2021) will be very helpful in addressing our infrastructure needs,” he said. “Additional funding will allow projects that were on the shelf due to lack of available funding to now continue. It will also allow agencies, such as PennDOT, to complete additional work, such as bridge and roadway maintenance work, that they otherwise would have been unable to complete because of lack of funding. With the additional work, we, as an industry, will be looking to hire additional staff at all levels.”
With this is mind, Shifflet recommends that all engineering and construction firms visit the TYP website to review the updated program. “I encourage everybody to hop on talkpatransportation.com to get a sense of the list of projects and read the background on the purpose and execution of the 12-Year Program,” he says. “It is one of the most important driving factors in developing projects, programming projects, and then eventually delivering projects. If there are federal or state dollars involved in a project, it must be on an approved 12-Year Program for any phase of that project to move forward. That makes the program a great planning tool for the industry as it looks for future and ongoing work.”