The Associated Press March 28, 2012, 5:43PM ET

Pa. House authorizes flood-damaged bridge repairs

The Pennsylvania House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to authorize millions of dollars to fix bridges damaged in last year's back-to-back storms, although the measure requires Senate approval.

The House voted 193 to 3 for a bill that covers dozens of projects in 14 counties in eastern and central Pennsylvania. The work includes repair, replacement, clearing blockage, debris removal and relocating a stream back under a bridge.

The list of projects would be paid for with $50 million from the state's Motor License Fund, supplementing federal support.

During brief debate, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee said the bill showed the need for a more comprehensive approach to improving Pennsylvania's infrastructure.

"We certainly want to be supportive of folks who have had some bad things happen to them in the flood," said Rep. Joe Markosek of Allegheny County. "It's the funding of this -- we're basically robbing Peter to pay Paul."

The bridges were destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, storms in August and September that killed 18 people and affected thousands of homes and businesses.

The vote sent the measure to the state Senate.

In November, the Senate approved a package of eight flood relief bills that included borrowing and tax abatement. Those bills also would authorize repairs or construction of highways, bridges, rail facilities, and flood control and disaster mitigation projects. All eight bills are pending in the House.

Gov. Tom Corbett's office said the administration has worked with the House and Senate as they have developed various proposals.

"It is still unclear what language and which bills of the post-recovery legislative package under consideration will ultimately make it to the governor's desk, but we remain committed to working with the General Assembly on this bipartisan effort to help the devastated communities still recovering from last year's flooding disasters," said Corbett spokeswoman Janet Kelley.

The bill passed by the House on Wednesday would authorize projects in Bradford, Bucks, Chester, Columbia, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Luzerne, Lycoming, Montgomery, Sullivan, Wyoming and York counties.

A House Republican spokesman said Wednesday that some of the work already has been performed, while other projects are in the pipeline. He linked the timing to state and federal emergency management agency studies of the damage.

"The reason why we're running this package of bills now is because FEMA and PEMA, frankly, are finalizing their reports now," said the spokesman, Steve Miskin. "They're still doing assessments and their conclusions are just coming in."

Also Wednesday, the House amended but did not pass a related bill, titled the Flood Control and Disaster Mitigation Itemization Act.

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Online:

Bill containing project list: http://bit.ly/HeK0x8


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