Pa. Transportation Infrastructure in Trouble

Friday, 13 Jan 2012 05:19 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan for improving transportation infrastructure will likely fall short, which could result in dire consequences for the state’s roads, bridges, transit, and the economy. Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch said Corbett is considering reworking the state’s wholesale and retail gasoline taxes to produce a growing revenue stream, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
 
However, Corbett isn’t likely to embrace the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission’s proposal to raise registration and license fees for the first time since 1997 to catch up with inflation.
 
The commission says its plan could raise up to $2.5 billion in new annual revenue for roads, bridges and public transportation. Schoch said the governor’s plan may also include borrowing some money, if the loans are fully financed by a new revenue stream.
 
Schoch’s comments came in testimony before the House Democratic Policy Committee. Other witnesses, including local civic and business leaders, said there will be severe consequences for the state’s transportation system if Corbett and the legislature don’t pass a plan soon.
 
Dan Cessna, district executive for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for Allegheny, Beaver, and Lawrence counties, said road quality across the state has declined because of inflation, age, and inadequate funding, and nearly one fourth of the overall system is classified as poor. His district alone went from 553 poor roadway miles in 2009 to 651 in 2010.
 
The problems likely will get worse as construction spending is off by more than $100 million in Cessna’s district, located in the greater Pittsburgh area, since last year.
 
The problems were multiplied last spring, when wet weather caused 24 severe landslides. Only 10 of them were fixed, using $10.7 million shifted from other projects, Cessna said, and repairs are planned for eight more, but there is no funding for the remaining six.
 
Meanwhile, public transportation in the Pittsburgh area is in trouble, said Port Authority CEO Steve Bland. His board of directors will announce a 35 percent service reduction next week, which will eliminate 40 of the city’s current 102 routes, stranding 20,000 riders and causing layoffs of 500 to 600 transit workers.

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