More than $137M for new Harrisburg courthouse included in federal budget

The new federal courthouse site as it looked in summer 2013. The 1500 Condominium, pictured, is the building across the street.-(File)

A long-awaited federal courthouse project in Harrisburg may soon have the money needed to get underway.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) confirmed Wednesday night that the courthouse funding is included in a $1.3 trillion federal budget bill that is moving quickly through Congress.

Casey said $137.2 million for the new courthouse at Sixth and Reily streets is tucked into the federal spending agreement, which Congress is expected to take up this week to avoid another government shutdown.

“This critical funding will help build a modern U.S. Courthouse in Harrisburg that meets current federal requirements and the security needs of the public servants, judges, staff, and public who utilize these facilities every day,” Casey said in a statement. “Implementing these security updates and facility improvements is long overdue. I applaud the Appropriations Committee for taking this request seriously and look forward to swift construction.” 

The 243,000-square-foot courthouse complex will replace the current courthouse at Third and Walnut streets in downtown Harrisburg.

However, it remains unclear how soon construction could begin once funding is approved. The U.S. General Services Administration said the project remains in the design phase, with Pittsburgh-based Mascaro Construction recently selected as construction manager.

GSA also has been trying to condemn additional properties around the courthouse site, according to other media reports.

Including prior authorizations to study the courthouse site, the Harrisburg courthouse project is expected to cost $194.4 million. That includes about $26 million that Congress allocated in 2004 for site acquisition and design of a new courthouse in Harrisburg. The Sixth and Reily site was officially chosen in 2010.

But federal funding delays and other courthouse needs nationally have put Harrisburg on the back burner.

The project was nearly a go before the presidential election in 2016. In 2017, the Judicial Conference listed the Harrisburg courthouse as its top priority.

The new courthouse will contain up to eight courtrooms and 11 chambers, according to GSA. Tenants will be the Pennsylvania 3rd Circuit U.S. Courts, U.S. Courts, U.S. Marshal Service, U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Trustees.

The courthouse project has long been discussed by elected officials and developers as a potential catalyst for significant development in the area around it.

“The new courthouse will serve as an economic driver of new development for the area,” U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne County), who is running against Casey for the Senate, said Thursday in a statement.

Barletta serves as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.

“As the chairman of the subcommittee that authorized the Harrisburg courthouse project, I have been working tirelessly to obtain the funding to get this project over the finish line,” Barletta said. “It’s been a long road, but one worth the fight.”

Jason Scott
Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin and Cumberland counties. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jscott@cpbj.com.

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