Pennsylvania's Dirt and Gravel Road Program was an innovative effort to fund "environmentally sound" maintenance of unpaved roadways that have been identified as sources of dust and sediment pollution. Signed into law in April 1997 as Section 9106 of the PA Vehicle Code, the program is based on the principle that informed local control is the most effective way to stop pollution. The program created a dedicated, non-lapsing fund (5 million each year, state wide) to provide moneys to local road maintenance by way of streamlined appropriations to local communities for use by local road maintenance entities under the auspices of a local Quality Assurance Board (QAB).
PA Act 89 of 2013, commonly know as the PA Transportation Funding Bill, made significant changes to Pennsylvania's Dirt and Gravel Road Program. Most significantly:
Local municipalities and state agencies that maintain dirt, gravel and low volume roads are eligible to receive funding. However, to be eligible for the program, the participant must first attend a two-day training session for "Environmentally Sensitive Maintenance of Dirt and Gravel Roads". To request funding, applicants submit a one-page application to the local Quality Assurance Board (QAB). The QAB, in turn, reviews the applications. To ensure equal access to the funds, the QAB establishes local priorities to prevent pollution. To be eligible, projects must employ "environmentally sound" maintenance practices and products to correct pollution problems related to the roadway.
The Dirt, Gravel and Low Volume Road Maintenance Program funds are appropriated directly to the State Conservation Commission. The funds are not administered by or supervised under the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). As such, PennDOT specifications and standards do not apply to this program.
The State Conservation Commission apportions Dirt, Gravel and Low Volume Road Maintenance funds to the Jefferson County Conservation District for projects in Jefferson County. A 4-member Quality Assurance Board (QAB) made up of local appointees has been established in every county to assist each District with grant application reviews and awarding of grants. Jefferson County's QAB members are: Deb Wilson, JCCD Non-voting Chairman; Porter Duvall, JCCD; a representative of Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PAFBC) (to be named); and Jared Shippey of Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Grants awarded to successful applicants will provide advance payments to aid with project cash flow and complete project work tasks on a timely basis. Once a grant has been awarded, the project participant is generally given 50% of the grant amount to begin the project. 30% of the grant monies are held by the Conservation District and QAB until the QAB and/or Conservation District staff has conducted a final inspection of the project. Once the project is completed and the QAB and Conservation District has determined that the project was completed in an environmentally sound way and according the program guidelines, the remainder of the money is then awarded to the project participant.
In January 2001, the Center for Dirt & Gravel Road Studies was established at Penn State University. The Center works closely with the State Conservation Commission, Conservation Districts, Quality Assurance Boards, and local municipalities to research improved maintenance techniques, provide "hands-on" technical assistance & training, appropriate maintenance practices and products, and broaden the impact of this pollution prevention effort.
For information on projects in Jefferson County, contact Carl Johnson at 814-849-7463. For additional information on the Pennsylvania Dirt and Gravel Roads Program, visit the PA-Center for Dirt and Gravel Roads.