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Wolf administration begins search for public transit solution

December 4, 2018

Faced with the expiration of a $400 million subsidy from the Turnpike for public transportation, the Wolf administration is beginning to set the stage for replacing that revenue.

PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards, at the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors Fall Conference last month, outlined the Commonwealth’s transportation funding needs, asserting that the $3.5 billion annual funding gap calculated in 2010 will have more than doubled by 2020 unless policymakers act. She said public transportation funding is the Commonwealth’s most pressing transportation need.

Then, last week, Governor Wolf said he supports changing the transportation funding method to relieve the burden on the Turnpike.

The combination of two legislative measures – one in 2007 and the other in 2013 – provided for a $450 million subsidy to public transportation and resulted in toll increases every year. The Turnpike has greatly increased its debt.

“I think there’s bipartisan support for actually taking a look at that, because I think we all recognize that’s unsustainable,” the governor said. “People using the turnpike are paying too much. The turnpike really is driving business away.”

Under the funding arrangement, $400 million of the subsidy will disappear by 2023 at the latest.  A lawsuit filed by an independent truckers’ organization could hasten the subsidy’s demise.

“Nobody has come up with a specific solution yet, and it won’t be easy,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “It’s encouraging to see the administration launch the process.”

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