PennDOT Sends Out SOS As Bridges, Roads Keep Crumbling

From Potter County Today

schochPennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch had some tough talk as a featured speaker for this week’s County Commissioners of Association summer conference in Somerset County. “We need to build more revenue, plain and simple,” Schoch declared. “If we don’t, it’s going to cost us all a lot more in the long run.” His speech came on the heels of the release of a study from the Governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission, which was charged with finding ways to raise an additional $2.5 billion annually to meet the state’s transportation infrastructure needs.

Those recommendations include funding for county and municipal roads and bridges starting at $60 million the first year and increasing to at least $200 million by the fifth year. The report calls for lifting the cap on the Oil Company Franchise Tax and increasing the cost of motor vehicle registration and driver’s licenses. The commission also voted to recommend that two percent of state sales tax revenues be earmarked toward mass transit and that local governments’ percentage match requirement for mass transit needs be increased. In addition, the recommendations call for restructuring Act 44, which includes a half-cent tax on each gallon of gasoline sold in Pennsylvania. Copies of the commission’s full recommendations can be accessed here.

Secretary Schoch explained the combination of circumstances that has gutted PennDOT’s budget, resulting in deteriorating roads and bridges, postponement of construction, and other austerity moves. While acknowledging that the nation’s success in significantly increasing the miles-per-gallon performance of motor vehicles, Schoch noted that one result is the purchase of less gas — with a corresponding reduction in revenue from the state’s gas tax. At the same time, hundreds of bridges across the state have reached the end of their life expectancy and road maintenance delays have resulted in crumbling highways.

“We need the legislature to take action,” the secretary emphasized. “We need the citizens of our commonwealth — the users of this transporation network — and you county leaders to understand these issues and to support these recommendations when you communicate to your senators and representatives in Harrisburg.”

Schoch said Pennsylvanians pay a far higher price tag for other shared networks, such as telephone service, internet access and cable television, but are  not as apt to recognize the return they receive from investments in roads and bridges. He pointed out that the amount of gasoline consumed, depreciation of vehicles, and lost time resulting from detours due to closed or restricted bridges and roads far exceeds the amount of revenue that is needed to repair this substandard infrastructure. “When people are able to look at spending on our transportation needs as an investment, or look at the big picture and the basic economics, it tends to change their perspective,” the secretary added.

Schoch also said that PennDOT administrators are studying ways to make the agency more efficient and have asked all 11,700 employees to share suggestions that might improve operations and save time and/or money.

Potter County Today is a timely information site courtesy of the Potter County Commissioners. Reprinted with Permission.

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