Transportation funding finally getting the attention it deservesFunding for transportation and infrastructure improvement, on both the national and state levels, has been getting a lot of attention of late in Washington, D.C. as well as here in Pennsylvania.

During his recent State of the Union address, President Obama proposed removing the red tape from construction projects so they can move from the drawing board to construction more quickly.  He also proposed reallocating a significant portion of war-related spending toward infrastructure improvements.  Republicans and Democrats appear to be on the same side of this issue, so we are hopeful that synergy exists to get the necessary legislation approved.

At the state level, Gov. Tom Corbett recently laid out his plan to fund Pennsylvania’s infrastructure.  The plan is mostly based on a five year phase-out of the cap on the oil company franchise tax and would provide approximately $5.4 billion over the five year period to be used for maintenance and improvements to our roads, bridges, and public transit systems. 

Barry Schoch, Pennsylvania's transportation secretary, identified the following benefits from the investment:

  • The creation of approximately 50,000 jobs, versus 12,000 potential job losses without the investment.
  • Improved mobility and customer service by increasing the length of car registrations from one to two years and providing drivers a six year driver’s license, versus the current four years.
  • Sustained economic competitiveness. With more than $500 billion worth of goods and services moving through Pennsylvania annually, it is critical that infrastructure is state-of-the-art.
  • Enhanced safety for the 31,000 registered school buses and 1.5 million students who travel by school bus.

If the governor’s plan is passed:

  • Annual construction will nearly double in 2017, from a projected $1.4 billion per year with no increase in funding to $2.6 billion per year with the increase.
  • The number of structurally deficient bridges is expected to decrease to 3,700 by 2020, versus more than 4,700 if we continue the current path.
  • Roads with poor roughness indexes are expected to decrease to less than 8,000 miles by 2020, versus over 16,000 miles if no legislation is passed.

Additional benefits of the plan include:

  • Elimination of vehicle registration stickers.
  • An optional fee for individuals who have allowed their insurance to lapse, versus the current three month registration suspension.
  • Elimination of one PennDOT secretary position.
  • Gradual increases in local match for capital transit projects, from 3.33 percent to 20 percent, in order to assure better local management of project costs.
  • Required consolidation studies for modernizing public transportation.
  • Opportunities for local governments to partner with PennDOT to manage traffic signals.

David E. Shaffer can be reached at (215) 441.4600 or Email.