Charlie Reichner isn’t a man who gives up easily.
The Nockamixon resident wants to see Route 611 north of Doylestown rebuilt, or at least repaved. The busy corridor, first constructed in the 1950s, is dangerous and costly to drivers, he said, despite over 150 sections being patched over the years.
Reichner alone has spent more than $5,000 on repairs to his truck from the jolts he says it receives going over the bumps along the heavily traveled highway.
He has appealed to legislators over the years and recently started a roadwork campaign, hanging petitions in local stores. So far he’s said he’s gotten 900 signatures from area residents who also want to see the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation use money from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to repair and repave the highway.
While Reichner would like to see the entire highway from Doylestown north to the Northampton County line rebuilt, he said the area in most need is between its intersection with Route 113 and near Marienstein Road in Revere.
One of his co-signers is Jeff Bryan, owner of Swamp’s Auto Works on the highway.
Bryan readily admits his business benefits from vehicles that need new tires, wheel alignments and other services from driving along bumpy 611. Even he has had to repair his large, roll-back tow truck.
“It should last over 100,000 miles without doing anything. I’ve replaced the front end twice because of 611,” he said.
How Bucks County roads projects are considered for federal funding
Last week, Reichner asked the Bucks County Commissioners to put the road on their Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) request to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. TIP is part of the funding, getting federal dollars through the state to pay for local projects.
Bucks County will receive $241.1 million in TIP funds from fiscal year 2023 through 2026. This is the lowest amount for any of the five counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Reichner said the state Secretary of Transportation, other state officials and the TIP coordinator told him the county had to initiate the request for funding for the 611 project he and other envision.
He said that whenever he asked about the road before, a PennDOT official told him it needed to be rebuilt but the state didn’t have the money or manpower for the job. But now with the new federal infrastructure aid, he’s hoping the work can be done.
“I think it’s unsafe,” he said. “The problem always was they don’t have enough money and personnel.”
PennDOT spokesman Brad Rudolph said the infrastructure bill provides $4 billion over five years for highway and bridge improvements in Pennsylvania. Some $1.7 billion of those funds need to be spent on deteriorating bridges, including in Bucks County. There are also funding match requirements to be paid by state and local entiities. Reichner said the federal government also has another $16 billion infrastructure kitty from which the state could request funds.
Rudolph said PennDOT has not developed cost estimates to reconstruct Route 611. But he said it costs the transportation agency $4 million a mile to reconstruct a two-lane highway in asphalt to $4.4 million a mile to do the reconstruction in concrete.
PennDOT has spent $2.08 million on repairs on Route 611 in Bucks since fiscal year 2020.
Deciding on which roads to repair or reconstruct takes PennDOT, working with the DRVPC, years of planning.
“The DVRPC has begun development of the 2025-2028 TIP. The various member organizations have been asked to identify new candidate projects,” Rudolph said.
Problems that need to be solved like bridge and pavement conditions, drainage, pedestrian and bicycle accommodation needs are considered, using current design practices to evaluate intersections and roadside safety, he explained.
Bucks County officials are ‘evaluating options,’ but no current plans for Route 611 fix
County spokesman Jim O’Malley said the county commissioners have a lot to consider when asking for a project to be placed on the TIP list.
“The commissioners take the concerns of county residents seriously, and going forward the county intends to assess these complaints and decide on the most effective way to relay them to the state,” O’Malley said when asked about the 611 request and petition.
“Only one or two projects may be submitted for consideration per region, and of the 70+ proposals the (Bucks County) Planning Commission has received, none are for work on this section of road.”
Bucks County Transportation Planner Richard Brahler said the pandemic affected PennDOT’s road construction plans as there have been fewer drivers paying tolls into the highway system since more people are working from home. And he said the popularity of electric vehicles also is affecting PennDOT in that the owners of these vehicles aren’t paying taxes on gas fuel.
“It’s a multi-layered complex issue,” Brahler said.
https://www.mcall.com/2023/09/17/upper-bucks-county-drivers-want-route-611-fix-could-federal-funds-pay-for-it/ Route 611 users seek state, federal help to fix highway