More state roads in Southeastern Pennsylvania were resurfaced this year than in each of the previous six years, state officials reported recently.
The state Department of Transportation resurfaced 215 miles of roads in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks and Chester Counties at a cost of $104 million, officials said. Statewide, PennDOT resurfaced more than 6,000 miles and awarded about $2.5 billion in contracts for bridge and road work in 2015.
Among the roads that got a facelift are portions of I-95, U.S. Route 202 in Bucks County, U.S. Route 30 in Chester County, U.S. Route 1 in Montgomery County and Philadelphia, and Route 3 in Delaware County.
The expanded resurfacing projects are, like many reinvigorated transportation projects in the state, a result of the state Act 89. Passed in 2013, Act 89 provides money for transportation each year through a steady, incremental increase to the oil company franchise tax over the next five years. By 2018, the law is expected to generate about $2.4 billion in transportation funding.
John Krafczyk, the state's assistant district executive for maintenance, said that without Act 89, the state would not have awarded the contracts it did this year.
Absent Act 89, the state would have been able to resurface about 35 miles of road in the region, said PennDOT spokesman Eugene Blaum.
Even with the additional funding, the state is still not keeping up with road maintenance. The region needed about 300 miles of resurfacing this year, Krafczyk said. The state has not yet scheduled its road repairs for 2016.
Road resurfacing is as constant and cyclical as the seasonal weather, which is part of the challenge. Water seeps into roads year round.
But the freezing and thawing during winter cause contraction and expansion, leading to cracks in the asphalt.
A road usually needs resurfacing every eight to 10 years, but the harsh winters over the last two years have made the state's job more difficult.
"We looked at roads that, frankly, if we had another winter like we had last winter, would just fall apart," Krafczyk said.
Repaving a road involves replacing the entire road bed. Resurfacing involves just replacing the top inch-and-a-half of asphalt, Krafczyk said.
Resurfacing projects need to be done when the temperature is above 40 degrees because hot asphalt does not set well at lower temperatures. Also, asphalt plants normally shut down during the winter months.
In the last six years, the agency had not resurfaced more than 171 miles of the region's roads in a year. In 2013, the agency resurfaced just 90 miles of road, and last year fixed 139 miles.