Appropriations Chairman Stan Saylor to Speak at March 14 PHIA Breakfast
The Pennsylvania Highway Information Association (PHIA) will host its first policy briefing breakfast of the year on March 14, 2017, featuring PA House Majority Appropriations Committee Chairman Stan Saylor. Representative… [read more]
The times they are a-changin’
Although we are and always have been the Pa. Highway Information Association, we tend to take a broad view of transportation, thinking of it as a single, integrated, multi-modal system of mobility. This month, Governing Magazine… [read more]
Driverless technology advances in Pennsylvania
While engineers and auto manufacturers continue to work on driverless technology, Pennsylvania is beginning work on the regulations that will guide this fledgling industry. PennDOT assembled an Autonomous Vehicles Testing Policy… [read more]
‘Free’ police coverage has a high price tag
In the last few weeks, editorials and op-ed articles have appeared in newspapers around the state in reaction to the Associated Press story about “free” state police coverage. The AP noted that nearly half of Pennsylvania’s… [read more]
NEWS & UPDATES
Several months ago, Northampton County officials said they intended to pursue a bundling approach to address the county’s significant bridge problem. This week, new details are emerging.
Kriger Construction will rebuild 33 bridges over the next three years for $37.5 million through a public-private partnership arrangement. The county will pay for the work over 10 years, during which Kriger will be responsible for maintenance of the bridges.
The county will not need to raise taxes (at least not because of the bridge project), and officials believe that by bundling the projects, the county will save between 20 and 30 percent per bridge compared with what it would have paid to rebuild them individually.
News accounts say that this is the first county-level P-3 in the country. The county needed to perform some legal gymnastics to make it work, since counties are not permitted to contract directly with the builder under Pennsylvania’s P-3 law.
If the project is successful, the county will proceed with the same approach for the remaining 66 bridges that need to be replaced.
“If it works like they believe it will, communities across the country will probably copy Northampton’s blueprint,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “It could serve as an example of how P-3s can help address infrastructure needs.”
After a divisive election season, it is heartening that one issue is creating a point of unity among many political quarters: investing in the nation’s infrastructure. In Pennsylvania, the need is to focus on long overdue megaprojects such as the reconstruction and widening of I-95 to the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway and the reconstruction of US 422 in Berks County.
The $25 fee is a starting point for covering state police costs instead of relying on the PennDOT highway fund, Wolf said Wednesday at a stop in Allentown.
Taxpayers statewide fund the state police. If you live in Ephrata Borough, for example, your local taxes are supporting your borough police department. But your tax dollars are also paying for state police coverage for municipalities that have no local police department. So a place like Abbott Township, way up in Potter County, which has no local police force, is paying nothing extra for the state police coverage.
You don’t need a panel of actuaries to figure out that simply isn’t fair.
About 80 percent of Pennsylvanians pay for local police and state police. The other 20 percent only pay for state police, according to a Tribune-Review analysis.
Funded through taxes, fees and other sources, costs for Pennsylvania State Police protection come to about $97 per year for every resident.
A sizable portion of southern York County depends on Pennsylvania State Police to respond to 911 calls. That service, used full-time by 21 boroughs and townships, has been free … more or less. The state police are funded by taxpayer money.
But Gov. Tom Wolf, in his 2017-18 budget preview released on Tuesday, has proposed a $25 per-person fee for municipalities that rely on the state troopers. In York County alone, such fees would amount to about $1.5 million.
Millions of people who travel between the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest each year fight through Breezewood, Pa., a strange gap in the Interstate System. A leg of Route I-70 brings drivers north from Washington and Baltimore to plug into the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the great road network that runs west to the heartland cities of Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Chicago.
But no ramps join these two huge highways at their crossing. Instead, drivers travel an extra two-mile loop that takes them out of rural Appalachia and into several suddenly urban blocks with traffic lights and a dense bazaar of gas stations, fast-food restaurants and motels.
Just how bad is the state of the nation’s highway infrastructure? So bad, tires on FedEx trucks last only half as long as they did 20 years ago, as they deteriorate rapidly from crumbling pavement and get more flats from gaping potholes.
A heavily traveled bridge linking Pennsylvania and New Jersey that has a fractured steel truss is expected to remain closed for at least two more months, Pennsylvania Turnpike officials said Friday.
The turnpike commission told The Associated Press they are still trying to determine what went wrong with the Interstate 276 span over the Delaware River. The bridge could reopen in early April if a repair plan goes smoothly, they said.
More than $9 million in contracts were awarded Tuesday to prepare the Delaware River Bridge between the New Jersey and Pennsylvania turnpikes for permanent repairs after it was closed two weeks ago, when a crack was found in a piece of support structure.
New Jersey Turnpike Authority commissioners approved a total of $9.15 million in contracts to build foundations and eight towers to jack up the bridge in preparation for repairs.
Engineers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey faced a mystery as they investigated the cause of a fractured beam on the Delaware River Turnpike Bridge last month. Poring through more than 50 boxes of records on the bridge’s history, in addition to giving the bridge a close inspection, officials have gathered clues but aren’t ready to announce a cause.
The answer could have ramifications across the country for the maintenance of America’s aging infrastructure. Plug welds, used to patch excess holes, are a leading contender for creating a weak point in the beam, officials said.
Because of PHIA’s focus on highway safety, it probably comes as no surprise that the organization supports automated speed enforcement in work zones using cameras. The Senate Transportation Committee considered such a measure last year but was not able to advance it to a floor vote in the waning days of the legislative session.
The committee once again advanced a very similar measure in its first week of the new session, and it is positioned again to move toward a vote of the full Senate and advance to the House.
The experience that Maryland has had after enacting a similar measure makes it very clear that automated enforcement works. Once Maryland drivers became aware that exceeding the work zone speed limit by at least 11 miles per hour could result in a ticket for the vehicle owner, violations dropped from seven cars per 100 to fewer than one per 100.
“There’s some disagreement among lawmakers as to whether the revenue from automated speeding fines should go toward highway use or be used to support the State Police,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “Neither PHIA nor the construction industry has a position on where the money should go. For us, the safety of people in work zones is the most important consideration.”
An article about the Senate bill can be found at this link. E-motion will provide updates on this measure as it advances.
The $396 million bid by Trumbull Corp. of Pittsburgh, the only general contractor willing to replace the free I-95 Scudder Falls bridge with a twin toll bridge under conditions set by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, has been accepted by the commission.
The commission had hoped to build the bridge for $300 million to $325 million. Two nonunion general contractors told the Inquirer they felt they were discouraged from bidding because the commission is requiring a Project Labor Agreement binding builders to work with unions in case of work disputes.
Tolls have been a fact of life in Indiana for at least 60 years, but state Rep. Edmond Soliday thinks there will have to be more of them if the state wants to keep its roads in good shape. Soliday, a Republican who chairs his chamber’s transportation committee, said the most expensive part of the state’s transportation network are the heavily trafficked interstates that are filled with out-of-state trucks.
Federal law, however, prevents states from tolling existing interstates without a waiver. So Soliday introduced an ambitious road-funding bill earlier this month that would instruct the Indiana Department of Transportation to apply for a federal waiver and to study how tolls could be added.
Entering a tunnel in Pittsburgh no longer means entering a black hole for cellphone service. PennDOT says a new antenna system will boost wireless coverage inside the Fort Pitt, Squirrel Hill and Liberty tunnels.
A new collection of transportation agencies and universities is taking one small step toward transforming the Rust Belt into a place associated with the future instead of the past. Eleven agencies and institutions located in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have formed the Smart Belt Coalition, which will spur joint efforts on the testing and deployment of autonomous and connected cars.
The collaboration comes on the heels of a legislative overhaul of Michigan regulations last month, which have been relaxed to spur the testing of self-driving technology on the state’s public roads. Ohio and Pennsylvania do not have laws on the books governing autonomous vehicles, but in their absence, both states have encouraged such tests.
The Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday approved legislation that would establish a five-year pilot program of installing speed detection cameras in work zones on PennDOT and Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission highways.