Funds sought to cure Pennsylvania transportation woes

| 8/31/2006

A new report says hundreds of millions of dollars are needed to rebuild roads and bridges in Pennsylvania and help cash-strapped mass transit in the state.

The report released by the Pennsylvania Transportation and Funding Reform Commission doesn’t list specific revenue-enhancers, but does mention some possibilities.

Those possibilities include charging drivers to use roads that are now toll-free, such as Interstate 80, and creating “public-private partnerships” for some major highways, including giving a private group a long-term lease to operate the Pennsylvania Turnpike in exchange for writing a check to the state for several billions of dollars, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Sales taxes, fuel taxes, road tolls, vehicle registration fees and/or bus fares are likely to be increased to generate the $866 million to $2.2 billion needed to aid transportation systems in the state, state officials privately admitted to the Post-Gazette.

Gov. Ed Rendell said this week he would not support an increase in the state fuel tax to help raise money.

The governor stopped short of offering any specific solutions to compensate for the funding gap. He said the state has been able “to stretch highway dollars” in the past and would continue to do so.

The commission is expected to deliver a final report with recommendations on how to keep roads, bridges and transit from further deterioration by Nov. 15 – a week after the general election.