Pennsylvania prepares for special session on transportation

| 4/26/2010

The ill-fated attempt to put tolls on Interstate 80 has spurred Pennsylvania lawmakers to pursue other methods to pay for transportation projects throughout the state.

Gov. Ed Rendell is expected to call a special session, which would begin May 4, to hash over possible solutions to help cope with the state’s $472 million shortfall of available funds for road and bridge work and public transit. There is greater urgency for the state to come up with additional revenue after the Federal Highway Administration rejected Pennsylvania’s application to privatize I-80.

Among the possible solutions that lawmakers are likely to consider to help cover the funding gap are public-private partnerships, fuel tax and fee increases.

One leading state lawmaker has come forward with various options to address transportation funding.

Rep. Rick Geist, the Republican chairman of the House Transportation Committee, has proposed an 11-point plan. The proposed solutions include tolls on Interstate 95, phasing out the motor license fund expenditures to the State Police budget, and more local responsibility for transit projects.

Geist contends the state cannot get out of its predicament without partnering with private groups for such projects as tolling new lanes on I-95.

“The cost for our whole state construction program is $1.8 billion. You realize we can’t do it,” Geist told Land Line Now on Sirius XM.

OOIDA members are opposed to the pawnshop mentality of making existing infrastructure, such as the Pennsylvania Turnpike, available to the highest bidder. The Association also takes  hard line against tolling existing capacity on roadways that include I-80 and I-95.

“I-95 would still be a free road. Only the additional capacity would be tolled,” Geist said.

Before Pennsylvania lawmakers start their scramble to plug gaping holes in the transportation budget, OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Joyce said it is vital that the state take more cautious steps to address infrastructure needs than what has been seen in the past.

“It starts with a responsible use of the resources they already have,” Joyce said.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Pennsylvania, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Staff Writer Reed Black contributed to this report.

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