Last week, US Rep. Dan Meuser (PA-9) announced a more than $21 million federal grant will go toward the reconstruction of Route 61 from St. Clair to Frackville, better known locally as The Grade.
The money, $21,012,220 in all, was awarded by the federal Dept. of Transportation to the Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation, as part of the INFRA grant program. This award comes after local officials applied, via PennDOT, for an INFRA grant for at least a second time. An application last year was denied.
“The Grade” Gets $21M Federal INFRA Grant for Highway Repairs
Now, while this is a significant grant award from the federal government, it’s still just a small portion of the overall price tag on the 4.5-mile stretch of battered highway connecting central Schuylkill County to our northern neighbors.
The Route 61 reconstruction project will tackle the many issues plaguing this part of the highway:
- Reconstructing the pavement
- Widening the shoulders
- Slope stabilization
- Realignment of substandard curves
- Installation of approximately 1,100 feet of new retaining walls
- Rehabilitation of 8 culverts and 2 bridges.
According to a previous report from the Republican Herald newspaper, the price tag for the complete transformation of this stretch of Route 61 was close to $65 million. And that was before the price of everything – especially construction materials – skyrocketed in 2021.
So, while this will put a dent in the total cost of the project, at best it’ll cover about one-third of the price.
Regardless, local officials are happy that some of the money will be coming in to help fix one of the worst stretches of highway in Schuylkill County, if not the entire country.
“Route 61 is a critical roadway in Pennsylvania, and this grant will help provide necessary improvements to the infrastructure of the highway, improving safety for those who traverse the road and creating economic development in the region. It is my hope that these improvements will allow for more businesses to flourish, and make commuting easier for Pennsylvanians,” Meuser says in a statement issued by the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber President Bob Carl says, “The importance of this final portion of the improvements of PA Route 61 to continued economic development, growth and most importantly recruitment and retention of very good jobs cannot be overstated. The Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce is extremely grateful to Congressman Dan Meuser’s strong leadership and advocacy for this INFRA Grant federal award.”
Photo: Coal Region Canary