Jerry Andree, Township Manager

Jerry Andree, Township Manager

No level of government has more impact on daily life than local government. That’s why my colleagues and I at Cranberry Township are passionate about pushing the limits of excellence to provide the best possible services to our residents and customers. However, being well-served is not a passive achievement; it is a collective undertaking. Through this blog, we offer our personal reflections on that assignment. And we hope it will help engage you in joining us on that same collaborative mission.

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Oct 04

Who’s paying for all this roadwork?

Posted on October 4, 2016 at 1:43 PM by Jerry Andree

A normal year in Western Pennsylvania, it is said, includes two seasons: bad weather and construction season.  We’re in the latter one now, and sometimes that can try the patience of people whose familiar travel routes have been disrupted.  I accept some responsibility for that; not only does the Township encourage road improvements, we also issue many of the permits that allow them to happen. 

But there is also a serious misunderstanding about how those improvements are financed – one that I do not accept responsibility for.  It’s the belief that whenever there’s a new development of some sort in Cranberry – a shopping center, an office building, a housing plan, or whatever – that any associated road improvements are being paid for by local taxpayers.  They’re not.  

It doesn’t surprise me that a lot of people believe their taxes are paying for those road projects; after all, that is exactly what happens in a number of other Western Pennsylvania communities where it is typically explained as an investment in economic development.  But Cranberry is different in several respects.  

First, as a condition of receiving Board approval to move ahead with any land development project here, the developer is required to create whatever improvements are needed for traffic to access the site of that project.  That could include things like new turning lanes, traffic signals, or on-site service roads – all of which would be done on the developer’s dime.  If you look at Rt. 228 – which was a two-lane blacktop road a generation ago – you’ll see a roadway transformed by private developer’s dollars. 

The second difference is that twenty-five years ago, Cranberry championed a new state law that allowed municipalities to collect fees from developers to help with transportation improvements.  They’re called Transportation Impact Fees, and their purpose is to finance off-site improvements to the local transportation system which would help to mitigate the increase in traffic that the developer’s project generated.  Cranberry was the first community in Pennsylvania to make use of that law, and since that time it’s financed numerous road, intersection and signal improvements.  

Beyond that, Transportation Impact Fees may be used as matching funds for federal and state transportation projects in the Township.  So they can leverage significantly more money than we collect from the developers themselves.  Using those matching formulas, we’ve been able to finance roughly $50 million in projects from about $13 million in fees that we actually collected. 

Our Board of Supervisors realized years ago that growth was inevitable and that the Township had to be prepared to proactively manage that growth.  They understood that the costs facing Cranberry as it transformed from a thinly populated rural area into a fast-growing, smoothly-functioning community would be high.  Its farm roads were never designed to handle the volume of traffic we now experience.  So they made a decision: to pass as much of the infrastructure improvement costs as possible onto the developers who were behind that fast growth.  And it’s worked.

The reason it works is that developers want to be here – not that they’re being bribed by gifts of local taxpayer money to come.  They want to be here because Cranberry has a great workforce, a great marketplace, great housing and great transportation.  It’s an excellent place to do business, so they’re willing to pay the costs associated with doing projects in the Township.  That’s why Cranberry works so well.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about financing transportation as well.  Write me at
jerry.andree@cranberrytownship.org
 

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