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Local students serve as “Senators for a Day”
A total of 131 students and 13 advisors from 11 secondary schools across the 41st Senatorial District had the opportunity to get a first-hand look at legislative and state government operations during a student government seminar I hosted on April 28 in the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Students had the opportunity to see how state government works. The attendees interacted with students from other high schools, elected officials and people in government relations while developing and voting on legislation as they served as members of the General Assembly.
In the morning they were broken down into committees: Communications & Technology, Drug & Alcohol, Economic Development, Education, Environment, Health & Welfare, Judiciary, State Government, and Transportation to consider bills. The students came together as the “full Senate” in the afternoon to vote on the bills reported out of the committees.
Local Fire, Ambulance Companies Receive Nearly $1 Million in State Grants
I am pleased to report that the state recently awarded $988,241 in grants to volunteer fire and ambulance companies across the 41st Senatorial District. The grant awards are from a program administered by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the Office of the State Fire Commissioner.
The grant recipients include:
Armstrong County ($404,280)
Butler County ($222,416)
Indiana County ($277,156)
Westmoreland County ($94,389)
Since 2001, I’ve been pleased to work toward ensuring our volunteer fire services receive these grant funds on an annual basis. Their service to our community is invaluable and while these grants are not large sums of money, they’ve become a stable source of revenue allowing these dollars to be used for long-term investments. I’m grateful for the men and women who volunteer their time and energy to protect our communities.
Work Begins on the Second Phase of West Hill’s Sewage Project
I was pleased to join with my colleague Representative Jeff Pyle and several local officials at the recent groundbreaking ceremony for the second phase of the West Hills Area Water Pollution Control Authority’s sewage treatment upgrade project.
The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST), which I serve on the board of directors, approved a $6.6 million low-interest loan last October for the work, which includes sewage plant work, new retention tanks, and upgrades to the Glades Run and Maple Lane pump stations. The work is expected to be completed in the summer of 2017.
The current system is prone to sewage overflows during wet weather, with untreated wastewater ending up in the Allegheny River. The series of planned upgrades will eliminate that risk and provide a more efficient system for the region. The West Hills project will also open up additional opportunities for growth on the western end of Armstrong County along the Route 422 corridor.
In July 2012, PENNVEST approved a $10,435,500 low-interest loan for the West Hills Area Water Pollution Control Authority for the installation of 61,500 feet of sanitary sewer lines, 3,300 feet of force main, 335 manholes and a pump station to serve new customers in East Franklin and North Buffalo townships. The sewer extension also serves customers in the Furnace Run and Walkchalk areas of East Franklin Township and the Center Hill area of North Buffalo Township. The Authority also made significant energy-saving improvements to its nearly 30 year-old treatment plant.
Recognizing an Outstanding Local Wresting Champion
I recently had the great pleasure of meeting Spencer Lee, a junior on Franklin Regional’s wrestling team. Spencer won the 2016 PIAA Class AAA Individual Wrestling Championship in the 120-pound weight division (his third state title). He was also named the PIAA State Tournament Outstanding Wrestler -- and for the second consecutive season he was named the Tribune-Review’s Wrestler of the Year. I was extremely pleased to be able to present a Citation for Athletic Achievement to Spencer in person which gave me the chance to chat with him about his future plans.
70 mph Speed Limit Expanded to a Total of 997 Miles
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently increased the speed limit to 70 mph on highways across the Commonwealth.
The new speed limit impacted 396 miles of the Turnpike and 400 miles of other highways. Added to the 201 combined miles of roadways already at 70 mph since July 2014, motorists will see the higher speed limit on a total of 997 miles of highways in the Commonwealth.
Turnpike travelers will see the higher speed limit on 90 percent of the entire toll highway, as 493 miles of the 552-mile system are now posted at 70 mph.
Areas of the PA Turnpike now posted at 55 mph will remain at 55 mph, including: work zones; the five tunnels; mainline toll plazas ( “barrier” plazas that stretch across travel lanes, such as Mid County and Delaware River Bridge in the southeast and Gateway and Warrendale in the west); the eastern slope of the Allegheny Mountain; and the seven-mile stretch east of the Bensalem Interchange in Bucks County (this section — now posted at 55 mph due to construction of the I-95/Turnpike link — will remain at 55 mph upon completion of the connections because of a lower design speed).
Other highways that are posted with the new speed limit are:
Act 89, the transportation funding plan enacted in November 2013, permitted the increase to 70 mph once appropriate safety studies were reviewed. PENNDOT and the Turnpike raised the limit in three pilot areas on the Turnpike, Interstate 80 and Interstate 380 in August 2014. The studies did not see a significant increase in speed or spike in crashes in the pilot areas.
Volunteer Fire Company Grant Program Now Open
Volunteer fire companies serving rural areas and communities with fewer than 10,000 residents and where forest and brush fires are common are urged to apply for matching grants of up to $7,500 for training and equipment purchases directly related to fighting brush and forest fires.
Funds from the Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant Program, administered by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), may be used for purchasing mobile or portable radios, installing dry hydrants, performing wildfire prevention and mitigation work, training wildfire fighters, or converting and maintaining federal excess vehicles to be used for fire suppression. DCNR gives priority to requests for projects that include the purchase of wildfire suppression equipment and protective clothing.
Grant applications must be submitted by 4 p.m., May 19. Applicants should visit https://www.grants.dcnr.state.pa.us/Dashboard/VFAGrants for more information.
Traffic Deaths Decrease in 2015
Traffic fatalities in Pennsylvania totaled 1,200 in 2015, the second-lowest since record-keeping began in 1928 and five more than the record set in 2014.
PENNDOT data from police reports shows that while the number of highway deaths dropped in many crash types, there were significant decreases in fatalities in crashes involving drivers older than 65, aggressive drivers and crashes at intersections. Deaths in crashes involving drivers 65 years of age and older declined to 279 from 300 in 2014. Fatalities in crashes at intersections decreased from 271 in 2014 to 251 in 2015, while fatalities in crashes involving aggressive drivers decreased from 134 in 2014 to 119 in 2015.
Fatalities increased in some types of crashes, including those involving single-vehicle run-off-the-road crashes and hit-fixed-object crashes. There were 580 fatalities in crashes involving single vehicles that ran off the road, up from 534 in 2014. Also, deaths in crashes where drivers hit fixed objects, such as trees, increased to 459 from 425 in 2014.
PENNDOT has invested approximately $50 million over the last five years for low-cost safety improvements at nearly 4,800 locations. Types of low-cost safety countermeasures include rumble strips, signage, pavement markings and roadway delineators. PENNDOT also invests about $20 million annually in state and federal funds for safety education and enforcement efforts statewide.
286 Main Capitol