Pennsylvania short on road funds

| 9/29/2004

Pennsylvania has a huge transportation funding gap that proposed federal legislation and even an 8-cent-a-gallon increase in the state’s fuel tax will not plug.

Allen Biehler, the state’s transportation secretary, delivered the bad news Sept. 27 at a meeting of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, which is the transportation planning agency for a 10-county region.

He pointed out the best funded of two proposed, six-year federal highway bills in the U.S. House and Senate would leave the state about $6.3 billion short of its $21.3 billion in needs for an adequate highway and bridge program, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Biehler said an 8-cent fuel tax hike proposed last year, then shelved for political reasons, would not be enough to make up the difference.

The fuel tax proposal is expected to receive consideration at the Capitol in Harrisburg after the Nov. 2 election, possibly tied with legislation to increase assistance to more than 70 rural and urban transit systems.

Meanwhile, Biehler said the state highway agency is focusing on preserving the existing system of roads and bridges through preventive maintenance and taking initiatives to cut costs by such actions as eliminating unnecessary paperwork and delays.