Thruway Project Will Happen if Cash Approved

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SHAMOKIN DAM -- Hopes for a new highway that would ease traffic congestion on busy Routes 11 and 15 in the Selinsgrove area were renewed Wednesday when state lawmakers gathered for a news conference.

Lawmakers say PennDOT wants to spend $558 million for the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway Project, but the project will only get the money if Governor Tom Corbett`s proposed transportation bill goes through.

Plans for the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway Project in Snyder County have been in the works for about 40 years. Officials say it never happened because of a lack of funding, until now.

"We will finally finally finally have a $558 million project called the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway," Senator John Gordner said.

Senator John Gordner announced the state has promises more than a half billion dollars to the project, which would ease traffic on Routes 11 and 15 in Snyder County. But in order to actually get that money, Governor Corbett`s proposed $1.8 billion transportation bill must pass. That has some people feeling skeptic.

"Let politics handle it, it will be forever, like it's been forever now," Rudy Frazier said.

Dot Blankenship has lived in Selinsgrove for the past 30 years. She says she will believe it when she sees it.

"I don't think we're ever going to see it. I think it's going to be the same old story over and over again," Blankenship said.

Senator Gordner says funding for the bill would come from removing the cap on the oil franchise fee that wholesale distributors pay. In other words, gas prices could go up.

According to PennDOT, the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway Project would be built in three sections, starting with a bridge over the west branch of the Susquehanna River. The bypass would be 13 miles long, and the project aims to reduce traffic and improve safety along Routes 11 and 15 near Selinsgrove.

"It's going to give you a much more reliable travel time, a safer facility, it's going to take trucks out of downtowns and out of the existing road system. It will take thru-traffic out of the existing roads," PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said.

Lawmakers say if Governor Corbett's transportation bill passes in July, they expect construction on the project to start in April of 2015. Senator Gordner says the bill will be introduced in the Senate Transportation Committee within the next two weeks. If the bill does not pass, that means no money for the project.