Governor Tom Corbett stood under Pittsburgh’s Liberty Bridge to discuss the need for more investment in road and bridge projects, as well as mass transit. This comes days after the Pennsylvania Senate voted to boost state funding for transportation systems by nearly 50 percent.
“We are moving in the right direction toward a transportation funding program that is sustainable, that is long-term, that is fair, and that is balanced,” said Corbett, “between my proposal and the one offered by Senate Bill 1, it means our roads and bridges will be safer, our economy more sound.
The governor’s proposal would set aside $1.8 billion dollars for transportation; the Senate’s plan comes with a $2.5 billion price tag. It was passed 45-5 this week, and will now be considered by the House, where lawmakers are a bit more skeptical of the cost. Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch said the important thing is that something is passed – because bridges such as the Liberty Bridge cannot be neglected.
“This bridge, if we do not do additional funding, is going to face weight restrictions,” said Schoch, “think about that, think if we weight restrict this bridge and the cost of the trucks that are going across this now going around it and the added congestion to other routes around Pittsburgh.”
If the legislature does not approve a transportation funding plan, spending on bridges in the Pittsburgh region would drop to about $53 million next year. PennDOT has spent an average of $131.5 million on bridges annually over the last six years.
Governor Corbett said he will continue to push for transportation funding as well as pension reform and sale of the state liquor system. He said he wants to see a transportation funding bill on his desk along with the state budget by the end of the month.
“We can’t afford to delay at this time,” said Corbett, “the cost of delay, not only is one in dollars by maybe having to weight restrict bridges or close roads, but it’s one that can affect public safety.”
The Liberty Bridge alone carries nearly 36,000 vehicles each day and is one of 4,000 structurally deficient bridges in Pennsylvania.