Bill O’Boyle: Are we really on our way to smooth roads?

Jul. 30—Let's talk about things that go bump on the roads.

You know, when you're driving along and all of a sudden you hit a pothole and "bump!"

Your head hits the roof of your vehicle and you shout words you never would in the company of humans and you string them together in never-before-used phrases.

And before you can recover from that unexpected encounter, "bump!" you hit another.

This could go on for miles — miles of pothole-ridden roadways across Pennsylvania.

But in 2023 and beyond, could our state government finally be getting serious about improving our roadways?

Well, our former state Rep. Mike Carroll, now Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Secretary Mike Carroll tells us that in just six months, 74 bridge projects have been completed — including the quick repair to I-95 in Philadelphia — and 1,200 miles of roadway were improved.

Wait. What? Is this true, or am I just about to awaken from a bizarro dream where Pennsylvania roads are smooth as a red velvet bath robe?

Well, this week Carroll was joined by regional and transportation-industry leaders to discuss the importance of transportation investments and provide an update on progress the department and its industry partners have made on roads and bridges across the state.

Whazzat?

Additionally, Carroll noted that the state budget passed in the state Senate and House includes Gov. Josh Shapiro's priority to make $125 million more available for infrastructure projects this year alone, while funding nearly 400 new state troopers and new equipment for the State Police.

Hold on though, we are told the budget bill is now waiting for the Senate to reconvene to complete "a small, administrative step" and deliver the bill to the governor for his signature.

Uh-huh. Ok. Sure. We'll see.

"Under the direction of Gov. Shapiro, PennDOT is doing tremendous work across Pennsylvania to make travel safer and smoother," Carroll said. "We look forward to the Senate returning the state budget bill to the governor's desk so we can match critical federal dollars and put even more investments into action for our residents and our economy."

Attaboy Mr. Secretary. Go get 'em. Git 'er done, sir.

Now PennDOT says from January through June, 403 bridges were put out for bid to be repaired, replaced, or preserved by PennDOT or industry forces — 74 state and local bridges were completed so far this year, two of which went out for bid this year.

Additionally, from January through July 10, nearly 1,200 roadway miles were improved by department or partner crews. This includes 352 miles of paving.

There are more than 1,500 projects worth over $9 billion currently or expected to be underway on state-maintained roads this year, PennDOT says. From January through June, 126 construction contracts for highway, bridge and other improvement projects were completed statewide through PennDOT's private-sector partners. This is in addition to work by department maintenance crews.

As construction projects continue, the traveling public should anticipate seeing many work zones and are urged to keep in mind their safety and the safety of highway workers.

No problem. We can do that.

When encountering a work zone, please drive the posted speed limit, turn on your headlights, pay close attention to signs and flaggers and avoid all distractions.

Check that as well. We're all in on that too.

In high-traffic locations, motorists are encouraged to use both lanes of travel to the merge point and to take turns merging into the open lane.

Yep, we are with you on that too, Mr. Secretary.

Pennsylvania drivers long for the day when we can have roads — smooth roads — to drive on. There is not a better driving experience than driving on a freshly paved, zero-pothole road for miles and miles and miles.

It would be a driver's dream come true.

Secretary Carroll wants this too. I really believe that. And so does Gov. Shapiro. I also believe that.

We have the enthusiasms and the funding. All that is left is the implementation.

The time is near, my friends, when we may no longer will go "bump" in the night, or anytime for that matter.

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Reach Bill O'Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.