Pennsylvania panel offers transportation funding options

| Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A governor-appointed panel in Pennsylvania delivered its final report on Monday, Aug. 1, that includes recommendations to raise about $2.5 billion in new funding within five years for transportation projects throughout the state.

The Transportation Funding Advisory Commission is a 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.

Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch wrote in a cover letter of the report that there are many recommendations in the report for the state to “work smarter in stretching transportation dollars” while increasing convenience for truckers and other drivers.

Among the 40-member group’s recommendations to boost revenue are ending a cap on the tax on wholesale fuel prices, and higher vehicle and driver registration fees.

Included in the report are the consequences of inaction. Among the impacts cited are an increased number of bad bridges, cheaper alternatives for road repairs, and deeper transit cuts.

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 in five years – which would be nearly half of the money sought by the commission.

Other recommendations include increasing fines for certain traffic offenses by $50. A $100 surcharge would be added to vehicle offenses that result in points against a driver’s license.

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

Also recommended is authorization for public-private partnerships to get transportation projects complete, as well as tolling authority on existing interstates.

The report encourages action due to anticipation that the funding need for transportation in the state is expected to triple from $3.5 billion now to $10.7 billion by 2030.

“There is no magic wand that can eliminate the challenges that lie ahead in building better roads and bridges and keeping our transportation system safe and efficient,” Schoch wrote to the governor and state lawmakers. “This report is a good starting point in developing responsible ways to fund our roads and bridges, public transit, aviation, rail and ports.”

Corbett 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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