Pennsylvania panel proposes road, bridge funding options

| 7/21/2011

In Pennsylvania, a governor-appointed panel adopted recommendations this week that would raise about $2.5 billion in new funding annually for transportation projects throughout the state.

The Transportation Funding Advisory Commission is an advisory panel appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett to address an estimated $3.5 billion annual shortfall in funds needed for roads, bridges and transit. The state has the country’s highest number of structurally deficient bridges and has 7,000 miles of roads listed in poor condition.

Among the 40-member group’s recommendations to boost revenue are ending a cap on the tax on wholesale fuel prices; raising vehicle and driver registration fees; and expanding use of ticket cameras throughout the state.

Lifting a cap on the oil company franchise tax would increase the per-gallon tax on diesel by about 19 cents and the tax on gas by about 14 cents over five years. Currently, the tax applies only to the first $1.25 per gallon of the wholesale price.

Eliminating the cap would raise about $1.36 billion – which would be nearly half of the money sought by the commission.

Other recommendations include stretching out vehicle registrations to every two years instead of annually. Driver’s license renewals would also be changed to every eight years, up from every four years.

Doubling the amount of time until renewals are due is expected to shave $5.5 million in costs for the state.

Fines for certain traffic offenses would be increased by $50. A $100 surcharge would be added to vehicle offenses that result in points against a driver’s license.

In addition, red-light cameras would be an option for communities around the state. Currently, only the city of Philadelphia is authorized to use the revenue generator. The revenue from the program is split between the city and the state.

Automated enforcement would not end there. The commission also recommends speed cameras be posted in work zones to reduce help needed by the State Police.

The additional revenue sought would generate more than $500 million for roads and bridges in the first year. The revenue increase would climb to $2.3 billion at the end of five years.

Transit funding would also get a $200 million boost at the start. By the fifth year new revenue would amount to nearly $430 million.

The commission is expected to report their recommendations to Gov. Corbett by Aug. 1. The governor can use the recommendations to develop a long-term transportation funding plan for the Legislature to review this fall.

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

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