A $600 million plan to upgrade the Route 422 corridor is set to be scaled back to a $35 million replacement of a bridge over the Schuylkill River at the Interstate 176 interchange and ramp reconfiguration in Cumru Township. The cutbacks are required in the wake of a PennDOT reallocation of funding to the state's interstate highways, officials said.
The Reading Area Transportation Study group is required to approve a new transportation improvement plan for the other road and bridge projects by Dec. 31.
“The hardest thing we had to do was to look at the cutbacks for the Route 422 reconstruction,” said Alan D. Piper, Berks County transportation planner. “It's always easier to add projects than to take them away.”
Berks County is facing a $68 million reduction in transportation funding during the next four fiscal years, beginning with Oct. 1, 2020. A $240 million reduction is anticipated in the next decade, which concludes Sept. 30, 2030.
Berks has already secured $260 million in funding for Interstate 78 upgrades extending from exit 35 in Greenwich Township to exit 45 at the Lehigh County line. Three fatalities occurred in 2018 on the 8.3-mile stretch under construction. In July, PennDOT informed the Reading transportation group of the potential funding cuts for the other road and bridge projects. Since then, Piper said, he has met with PennDOT officials numerous times to review all the road projects in Berks. Planners concluded the Route 422 corridor project will account for the bulk of the cuts, he said.
The initial project called for widening the highway to six lanes from the Route 12 exit in Wyomissing to the I-176 interchange in Cumru Township. All that remains of that project is the reconstruction of the bridge over the Schuylkill River and the reconfiguration of the westbound ramp to I-176, also known as the Morgantown Expressway. Piper said $6 million has already been spent on the engineering plan for the bridge project.
In May, an inspector discovered sediment eroding around the abutment of the 588-foot-long bridge, causing PennDOT to close one lane for a week for emergency repairs. In addition, Piper said the new transportation plan includes the construction of a roundabout at Route 222 and Long Lane in Maxatawny Township. Two other roundabouts are under construction on Route 222 at the intersections of Genesis Drive and Schaeffer Road in Maidencreek Township.
The first roundabout on Route 222 opened in May 2018 at Route 662 in Richmond Township.
As a result of funding cuts, Piper said, widening of the highway from Schaeffer Road in Maidencreek Township to the Kutztown Bypass in Maxatawny Township is not included in the new plans.
All bridges that already are closed will remain closed, Piper said.