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‘Out of the mud,’ once again

November 22, 2013

It will probably take several years to fully comprehend and appreciate it, but the events in Harrisburg regarding transportation this week will transform Pennsylvania and its residents, much like Gifford Pinchot’s road-building program transformed the Commonwealth in the 1930s by “getting the farmers out of the mud,” and like the Interstate Highway program transformed our nation in the 1960s.

By an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the Senate, and by a smaller bipartisan majority in the House, the General Assembly approved a comprehensive, multimodal funding package that will increase transportation investment by around $2.3 billion annually over the next five years. Governor Corbett said he will sign the measure next week.

PENBILL

Gov. Corbett expected to formally sign the bill on Monday

Unlike during the previous decades, the new funding act provides for continuing increases in fuel tax and license and registration revenue, thus breaking – or at least mitigating – the cycle of governing by responding to crises every 10 years or so. In any event, Pennsylvania has never been on firmer financial footing in addressing its transportation needs, and that is precisely 180 degrees from where we were just a few days ago.

This week’s achievement was the product of several years of sustained effort on the part of the construction industry, the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition and a multitude of PHIA members. We received a major boost from the business community, both at the state and local levels. It was equal parts of sound policy, deal-making and luck.

The funding act gives PHIA an opportunity to go back to its roots as the primary tool for informing and educating the public on the benefits of what PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch (remember him? He was PHIA president three years ago) calls “the Decade of Investment.” That was our role in the 1960s as the nation began the Interstate Highway program. We are up to the task and eager to begin.

The work of those who got us here is not finished. The next phase begins with thanking the House and Senate supporters for their courage and commitment, and defending them from those who seek to discredit their efforts.

What will we see by Year 10 of the Decade of Investment? Safer roads, less congestion, greater prosperity, a better quality of life, and a more competitive Pennsylvania. We look forward to chronicling the transformation.

 

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