Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pennsylvania Legislature Passes Public/Private Transportation Bill

Saturday, June 30, Pennsylvania’s legislature passed and sent to Governor Tom Corbett a measure setting up a seven member state panel to approve transportation projects funded by a mixture of public and private money. Though the bill, if signed into law, would make Pennsylvania the thirty-third state to have such a law on the books, it does nothing to solve the state’s road funding budget deficit which leaves Pennsylvania with over 5,000 structurally deficient bridges and 8,000 miles, or 26% of state highways, in very poor condition.

The bill is designed to permit private companies to propose “capacity enhancing” projects like adding variable toll “congestion relief” lanes to interstate highways, where tolls could be factored on number of vehicle occupants and level of traffic congestion in the neighboring free road lanes. The bill specifically prohibits leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private toll operator, without separate legislative approval. Pennsylvania State Representative Richard Geist predicts that the measure will promote creation of additional construction jobs in the state despite the road building budget deficit, while opponent State Representative Steve Santarsiero argues that the bill will take away taxpayer control of road building priorities in the state. A Santarsiero sponsored amendment which would have required construction companies working on projects approved under the measure to give hiring preference to Pennsylvania workers, and use steel produced in Pennsylvania mills, was defeated.

Governor Corbett has not proposed any revenue raisers to address the crumbling roads and bridges across his state, or to close the state’s $3.5 billion annual transportation budget shortfall.

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