TRIP Releases Dismal Statistics for PA Roads and Bridges

TRIP, a National transportation research group released their report on the condition of Pennsylvania’s roads and Bridges. Paste the link below into your browser to see the report.

http://www.tripnet.org/docs/Pennsylvania_TRIP_Statewide_Release_052913.pdf

It seems that the statistics have not changed over the last few years: 25% of bridges are structurally deficient, motorists spend hours in traffic delays wasting fuel, our economic viability continues to be challenged as it our mobility becomes more limited. We don’t seem to see any employment gains or increased economic activity due to our lack of investment in transportation infrastructure.

It seems the only way out of this predicament is to push our elected officials to have the “political will” to fund infrastructure. It seems difficult at a time when economic hardship has captured our focus to go out and commit our resources to infrastructure but at some point we have to realize that the funding isn’t just going to appear. We are going to have to “bite the bullet” and pay a little more in fuel taxes and user fees if we expect there to be any changes. I hope that we see some momentum in Pennsylvania’s Senate and House to deliver a transportation bill during this session. I hope everyone contacts their state senators and representatives and tells them how they feel about the statistics in the TRIP report.

Congressman Shuster Acknowledges Transportation Infrastructure at the Tipping Point

U.S. Representative Bill Shuster spoke yesterday at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Transportation Breakfast which was held at the Mack Truck Customer Center in Allentown, PA.  . Congressman Shuster is the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He acknowledged that the condition of our transportation infrastructure has fallen to the point where it is having a serious effect on our economic growth and global competitiveness. Our current funding legislation known as MAP 21 has not generated sufficient funds to maintain our current programs and will expire in September 2014. The Congressman indicated that they are looking at all potential funding sources. Congressman Charlie Dent also spoke briefly at the meeting discussing the need for a long term approach to solving this funding problem. He also indicated that the Northeast Rail Corridor should be upgraded to help ease congestion on our highways.

Congressman Shuster also discussed the Water Resources Development Act which is moving throught he Senate and will need to move through the House. This bill provides funding for ports, harbors, and inland waterways which are also in desperate need of a stable funding source.

The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce outlines is support for a long term and flexible funding plan for transportation infrastructure. Copy this link into your browser to see the Policy.

 

http://www.lehighvalleychamber.org/External/WCPages/WCWebContent/WebContentPage.aspx?ContentID=2285

ASCE Releases 2013 Report Card on America’s Infrastructure

On March 19. 2013 the American Society of Civil Engineers released the 2013 update to their National Infrastructure Report Card.  The report card assesses the condition of America’s infrastructure in 16 categories.  The overall grade was a D+ which is an improvement over the 2009 assessment which had an overall grade of D.  The major areas of improvement were the rail system and the highway bridge system.  The rail systems benefitted from significant private investment in the rail freight system and an improvement in the number of users of the passenger rail system.  The highway bridge system improved slightly because of a general change in the State Department of Transportation’s programs to favor maintenance of existing facilities over expansion of the roadway system.  The Bridges category received a C+ grade, In Pennsylvania, PennDOT has made a major effort to address structurally deficient bridges over the last five years.  Unfortunately, because of the age of Pennsylvania’s bridges each year many additional bridges fall into the structurally deficient category.  Currently 25% of Pennsylvania’s bridges are structurally deficient; that’s right, one in four bridges are structurally not able to carry their design load.

As part of the report card release, ASCE held their legislative Fly-in.  Pete Terry was proud to be one of eight representatives from Pennsylvania who met with Representatives and Senators from across the State.  The main focus of the visits was to share the updated Report Card findings, discuss the next Transportation Funding Bill (MAP 21, the current bill, will expire in September 2014) and to discuss the Water Resources Development Act which provides funding for dam safety, harbor improvements, and improvements to the system of inland waterways.  In general, is seems that our federal legislators are beginning to understand the value of infrastructure to creating jobs, competitiveness, and our standard of living.  The current fiscal constraints and a reluctance to increase user fees continues to hold back support for increased funding.  ASCE indicated three key solutions to increasing our infrastructures grades; (1) Increase leadership on the state and federal levels in infrastructure renewal, (2) Promote sustainability and resilience in the design and maintenance of our infrastructure, and (3) Develop and fund plans to coordinate all transportation modes and their funding.

To see the 2009 Report Card please visit http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

PA Transportation Funding On Priority List for State Legislators

 During this week, progress was made on one of four major issues currently before the State Legislature.  The plan to privatize the State’s Liquor Stores passed the State House and the plan now moves onto the State Senate.  The Governor has indicated that he supports privatizing the liquor stores.

The other three major issues before our legislators are a plan to fund transportation infrastructure, the State’s budget, and reforms to the State’s pension system.  As part of the Governor’s budget address in early March he has introduced a plan which would reduce the State’s portion of the fuel tax but lift the cap on the wholesale fuel tax.  This plan, along with some minor changes to registration and license fees would be phased in over five years and would eventually raise an additional $1.7 Billion to fund transportation infrastructure.  The Governors funding commission released a report in August of 2011 indicating that funding at the level of $2.8 Billion per year would allow sufficient funding to allow us to maintain our roadway and mass transit systems at the level they are currently performing.  Several legislators have suggested that when bills are introduced in the House and Senate they may include higher funding levels to allow for the maintenance and potential improvement of our transportation infrastructure.

The annual battle over the State’s budget will likely be contentious, however, the State’s revenues have shown some growth as it appears the economy in Pennsylvania has stabilized and may actually be growing slightly.  The issue of Pension reform is a very difficult battle.  It is likely that new workers will receive different less costly retirement plans than workers in the existing system.  While private industry has moved away from defined benefit programs in favor of defined contribution programs the State government has continued to resist this change.

Democratic State Representatives Gather for Comments on Transportation Infrastructure

On Thursday February 28, 2013 ten state representative from across Pennsylvania held a hearing at the America On Wheels Museum in Allentown.  The purpose of the hearing was to gather public input concerning the Governor’s proposed transportation funding plan and needs of our state’s citizens.  Pete Terry presented the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Transportation Funding Policy.  Representatives from PennDOT, LANta, and other interested groups also provided testimony.

The Chamber’s policy recognizes the importance of bridges, roads, public transportation, airports, and rail freight to the economic viability and quality of life in the Lehigh Valley.  The policy supports transportation infrastructure with the following points:

Promote Efficiency in Transportation Projects

Promote The Setting Of An Appropriate Prevailing Wage

Wider Use Of Tolling In New And Existing Public Highways

The Creation Of Dedicated Funding For the State Police

Private-Public-Partnerships (P3)

Gradual Adjustment The Cap On The Oil Franchise Tax (OCFT)

Implement Inflation Based Increases In Fuel & User Fees

The full policy is available at: http://www.lehighvalleychamber.org/chamber-information/transportation-committee.aspx

From the discussion following the presentations it was clear that there is an understanding that the Governors proposed $1.8 B funding program will have a significant impact on improving our infrastructure but will fall well short of the needs which have been identified.

A link to the Easton Express news article on the hearing is below.

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2013/02/greater_lehigh_valley_chamber_2.html

Does PA Governor Corbett’s Transportation Plan Go Far Enough?

This week Senator John Rafferty, chariman of the Senate Transportation Committee, responded to the Governors proposed $1.7 Billion Dollar Transportation Funding Plan indicating that he did not feel that the plan went far enough.  Senator Rafferty suggested that the plan should also include increases to vehicle registration fees and drivers license fees to generate the additional funding and that his goal for a funding amount was in the $2.7 to 2.8 Billion dollars per year range.  There seems to be some bipartisan support for increasing the funding to this level, however no specific legislation has been introduced.

There is also discussion of using private public partnerships to generate the funds for some major bridge rehabilitation projects.  Under theses plans a private group would fund the bridge repairs and then collect tolls on the bridge for a set period of time before turning the bridge back to the public.

For more detail please follow the link below.

http://paindependent.com/2013/02/key-senator-wants-1-billion-more-added-to-corbetts-1-7-billion-transportation-plan/

PA Governor’s Plan for Transportation Funding

On February 4, 2013 the Governor released his long awaited Transportation Funding Plan. The plan is a political masterpiece and also a good plan for Pennsylvania. Secretary of Transportation Schoch described the details of the plan in a press conference later that afternoon. The plan includes a cut of nearly four cents in the portion of the gas tax which the state controls. This satisfies many in our world who want to cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes. The plan also, over the next five years, increases the cap on the tax charged at the wholesale level. Currently the tax is only charged on the first $1.25 of the wholesale price of a gallon of gas. The current wholesale price is about $2.50 a gallon. By charging the tax on the full wholesale price an estimated $1.8 billion dollars per year will be raised. It is not clear how much of the increased tax will be passed through to the consumer by those big nasty oil companies.

While this plan falls far short of the funding identified by the Governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission, it is a step in the right direction which may find enough votes for passage. The Advisory Commission had recommended funding levels slightly higher than this proposal to just maintain the condition of our current roadway system and significantly greater funding to actually improve our system.

Investing in our transportation infrastructure pays dividends both in job creation and by making Pennsylvania more attractive for business. The next step will be for the introduction of legislation in the PA House and Senate to put a funding plan into law. Benchmark will keep abreast of any legislation introduced and we hope that you spend the time to tell your legislators how you feel about funding transportation infrastructure.

Secretary Schoch’s presentation slides can be viewed at the link below.
ftp://ftp.dot.state.pa.us/public/pdf/TRANSPLAN/PennDOT%20PowerPoint%20-%20Transportation%20Funding%20Plan.pdf

Pete Terry