Transportation Funding

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Under the Liberty Bridge was the setting as former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell called on federal lawmakers to increase funding for the nation’s roads and bridges.

Rendell joined Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and the Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania in the request, which is part of a new campaign from the Associated General Contractors of America. It’s an advertising, community outreach and social media campaign.

Flickr user bbyrnes59

Transportation advocates in Pittsburgh and more than 100 other American cities are joining forces to call attention to the fast-approaching expiration of surface transportation funding from the federal government.

Thursday is being billed as Stand Up for Transportation Day. Chris Sandvig, regional policy director from the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, said most people don’t realize that funding is about to dry up.

Multimodal projects ranging from improving barge docks to extending walking and biking trails are receiving a combined $84 million in grants from  Pennsylvania’s Act 89. In announcing the awards Tuesday for 86 projects in 35 counties, PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said the grants address a variety of transportation needs.

“People walk, they ride bicycles, they take public transportation, they ride passenger rail.   For the first time ever, we’re investing in every mode,” Schoch said.

Seven of the grant recipients are in Allegheny County including:

Ground was broken  Monday on Phase 2 of the Southern Beltway (I-576) that will  eventually connect Pittsburgh International Airport to  the Mon Fayette Expressway.

This phase, totaling $550 million  includes construction of a 13-mile highway linking Route 22 with I-79 near McDonald and begins with the building of two bridges costing $14 million.

The project was made possible by Act 89, the $2.3 billion transportation funding plan, signed into law last November by Governor Tom Corbett who was present at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Gov. Tom Corbett's administration says it has finalized the highway, bridge and mass transit improvement projects that'll begin this year as a result of a landmark transportation funding bill he signed in November.

The administration said Thursday that about 250 highway and bridge projects and 50 mass transit projects will begin in 2014 as a result of the law. That puts the total at approximately 950 highway, bridge and mass transit projects beginning in 2014.

Starting Tuesday, an initial wave of fee increases for motor vehicle and driver services will go into effect.

The higher fees were part of the transportation law that passed last year, which allots $2.35 billion to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to roads, bridges and transit systems. That price tag is being paid for, in part, by an increase in gasoline taxes and higher vehicle service fees.

A Wall Street Journal editorial last week delivered a harsh sizing-up of Gov. Tom Corbett’s legislative achievements, and in so doing prompted a question: Why isn’t the governor campaigning on securing additional transportation funding for the state?

The WSJ op-ed noted Corbett’s low polling numbers and criticized the governor for being “unable to corral his caucus to pass even de minimis pension, school and tax reforms.”

State Transportation Funding Passed Through Compromise

Nov 25, 2013
joseph a / Flickr

The PA state legislature has finally approved a transportation bill that would fund mass transit and infrastructure improvements. Governor Tom Corbett and many others in the state have been pushing for its passage for well over a year.

State capitol correspondent Mary Wilson says by leading the most recent round of compromises between Republican and Democratic Representatives, the House speaker should be credited for the final adoption of this contentious bill.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Corbett spent Monday touring sites in need of repair to talk about the just-signed transportation bill.

State lawmakers who voted to raise more than $2 billion in fees and gas taxes will have some explaining to do to conservative groups that keep close watch over tax votes in the Legislature.

Lawmakers who flipped to support the $2.3 billion plan are already being targeted by an anti-tax and limited government group based in Harrisburg.

Republican Rep. Stan Saylor of York County is among the members being singled out.

He said he’s already expecting a primary challenge in next year’s election.  

After more than a year of discussion, the state has a transportation plan in place.

A $2.3 billion plan to fund roads, bridges, mass transit, airports, waterways, bike paths and more has passed the state House and heads to the governor’s desk.

Gov. Tom Corbett is hailing passage of new transportation bill, saying he perceived an urgent need to fix roads and bridges after he took office three years ago.

The Republican spoke Thursday shortly after legislative approval of a law to pump billions into transportation infrastructure and mass transit.

Not everyone is happy with the transportation plan nearing passage in the Pennsylvania legislature.

The conservative political action group Americans for Prosperity is calling the plan an attack on working Pennsylvanians. The proposal increases registration, licensing and other motor vehicle fees to get the funding needed for transportation projects. It also removes a cap on a tax paid by gas stations.

A $2.3 billion transportation infrastructure funding plan is headed back to the state House after it passed the Senate with bipartisan support.

Lawmakers are expected to take a concurring vote on it Thursday afternoon.

Senate Democrats were blocked from offering their own amendments to the bill.

Democratic state Sen. Jim Ferlo of Allegheny County says the plan includes a fund that will be used a lot like “walking around money,” or WAMs, which have been disparaged by Gov. Tom Corbett as an underhanded way of stewarding tax dollars.  

A $2.3 billion amendment to a transportation funding plan passed a preliminary vote in the state House Tuesday night, within 24 hours of the House's rejection of the same measure, twice, amid concerns from tax-wary Republicans and labor-allied Democrats.

The vote was 104-95, though two Republicans who missed the final tally asked that their affirmative votes be noted in the record.

As Pennsylvania lawmakers continue to debate a transportation funding plan, the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) is recommending a plan that would fund road, bridge and transit projects through a mix of cash and debt financing.

“With a combination of cash that’s raised through a number of vehicles (fees) and responsible borrowing, that will reduce the up-front cost but better reflect the fact that these are long-term investments that will have a long use over many years,” said PBPC Director Sharon Ward.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has just four voting days left this year, and they still have not passed a transportation funding bill. A Senate bill that would fund roads, bridges and public transit has been languishing since it was passed in June.

Now, a local nonprofit is trying to turn up the heat on key legislators by calling the constituents in their districts.

A transportation funding bill for Pennsylvania is still stuck in park.

But while negotiations continue, the fate of one of its more controversial mechanisms for generating revenue is still unsettled.

The state Senate’s plan to fund infrastructure includes tacking a 100 dollar surcharge onto certain traffic violations, like speeding tickets.  Most of the money would go toward mass transit. The Senate projected the surcharge would raise as much as 75 million dollars in the first year of implementation.

State House leaders are gearing up for a possible showdown on transportation funding as soon as this week.
    
The Republican Majority Leader has said he would bring the long-stymied funding bill up for a vote in his chamber.
    
PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said the governor would sign whatever can pass in the House, provided it doesn’t go below a $1.8 billion plan he offered earlier this year.

Two legislative leaders are calling on Gov. Tom Corbett to dispel the rumors once and for all that two of his top priorities from the spring are linked as some grand strategy.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa is again asking the administration to announce there is no effort to keep transportation funding hostage in order to pass a liquor privatization bill, or vice versa.

The GOP House Majority Leader agreed that it falls to Corbett to de-couple the two items.

Pennsylvania has 5,543 structurally deficient bridges; 86 percent are owned by the state.

Now U.S. Sen. Bob Casey has unveiled a bipartisan proposal to increase funding by 10 percent for “off-system” bridges — bridges that are owned by a county or municipality and are not part of the federal highway system.

Casey said all bridges in the commonwealth average 54 years old, and only 10 percent of them receive federal funds.

State House Republicans, who couldn’t muster majority support of a transportation funding plan this year, might be offering a much smaller proposal to pay for infrastructure needs.

Lawmakers headed home for the summer this year after a roughly $2 billion funding plan stalled in the House.
 
Now, House GOP staffers say a $500 million plan may be coming from their quarters.
    
It would pay for infrastructure must-haves, like bridge maintenance and some public transit.

Bob Latham, with Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, disagrees.

How to fund transportation improvements hit a traffic jam this summer.

House Republican leaders wanted to spend less than the $2.5 billion the Senate passed, and neither can agree on where to get the money.

To try to break the gridlock, the House Appropriations Committee hosted a hearing in Pittsburgh Wednesday to explore how investments in infrastructure can generate economic growth.

County officials remain steadfast in their support for more transportation dollars alongside reforms to the prevailing wage law.

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania says the set wages unnecessarily boost the cost of road work for local governments.

Association president Christian Leinbach, a Berks County commissioner, said despite a coolness to linking reforms to a transportation funding bill, his group is still pushing for an end to prevailing wage.

After days of false starts, a plan to fund Pennsylvania’s roads, bridges and mass transit has cleared a state House committee vote.
    
The roughly $2 billion proposal has received bipartisan support, though many Democrats say they still have concerns it contains too little money for mass transit.
    
Republican Transportation Committee Chairman Dick Hess said he’s open to more changes to the plan when it’s up for a vote before the full House.

State House Republicans are preparing major changes to a bill to fund roads, bridges and mass transit, despite warning cries from some of their colleagues in the Senate.

The $1.8 billion plan doesn't include any of the traffic violation fines or motorist fee increases lawmakers were grumbling about. But it still uncaps a tax paid by gas stations, doing so over 10 years, instead of three, as the Senate proposed.

What's Next for Pennsylvania Transportation?

Jun 24, 2013
SenatorFerlo.com

A version of the Pennsylvania transportation funding bill passed last week is expected to be voted on in the State House of Representatives Tuesday.

But State Senator Jim Ferlo is concerned that the bill does not allocate enough money for infrastructure maintenance. He's also opposed to a provision that would allow partial privatization of select bus lines. State Senator Jim Ferlo talks about why he voted against the funding bill and legislation that would change the structure of the Port Authority of Allegheny County Transit board.

Negotiations over a $2.5 billion plan to fix Pennsylvania's roads and bridges could include getting rid of state-set wages that increase the cost of road repair projects.

Many House Republicans have long opposed of the state's prevailing wage law, saying it typically sets the pay for public works projects at union rates, and boosts costs to local governments by as much as 20 percent.

Ed Rendell couldn't sit this debate out.

The former Democratic governor has penned a letter to all the state House members pleading for their votes on the $2.5 billion transportation funding plan — and not to let it be linked to other issues, like liquor privatization.

In years past, top lawmakers have talked about such deal-making as perfectly acceptable. The Senate President Pro Tem calls it the "Rendell school of leverage."

But the school's namesake said the stakes are too high now.