PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 17

April 27, 2020

Gas tax revenue drying up

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, the demand for gasoline has dropped as much as 50%, inventories have risen to a record high and the price of gas continues to plunge at the pump.

Wolf administration announces housing and transportation funding

Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin announced new funding assistance for community development and affordable housing activities to address the COVID-19 pandemic under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Pandemic puts emergency responders in tough spot; PennDOT adapts

Nearly a quarter of Pennsylvania’s Emergency Medical Services shut down between 2012 and 2018 due to a lack of funding and not enough emergency service technicians, paramedics or volunteers to staff ambulances. That was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, emergency responders face exposure to patients infected by the virus and risking their own health, as well as money being even tighter.

PennDOT extending deadlines for licenses, registrations

While expiration dates on licenses and registrations were extended to the end of April, they are now through the end of May. The deadline extension also applies to safety and emissions inspections as well as learner’s permits.

Prices are plummeting at the pump. But, will it last?

Prices at the pump are plummeting as more people are staying home during the COVID-19 crisis. That’s good news for drivers and for the state when it comes to protecting public health. But, the lower gas consumption could carry long-term impacts for Pennsylvania when it comes to collecting the gas tax, which funds infrastructure and state police services.

Coronavirus restrictions drive down traffic

Welcome to another consequence of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic – traffic on major roadways throughout the five-county Times News region is down significantly.

The Pa. Turnpike is seeing less traffic; it could cause big problems statewide

With fewer drivers, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is generating a lot less money from tolls. From March 22 through April 18, the turnpike commission has seen a 50 percent drop in revenue from tolls.



PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 16

April 20, 2020

Leadfoot or lightfoot, driving the open roads in a pandemic

The best way to drive safely during the pandemic is not to drive at all. But if you have to travel, several experts offered tips on how to make sure you and your loved ones get there and back safely.

Pa. Turnpike considers cutting capital budget projects, transit payments

The Pennsylvania Turnpike has experienced such sharp declines in traffic and revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that the agency is reviewing all of its expenses, including its 10-year, $5.9 billion capital improvement plans and its $450 million annual payments to the state to help pay for public transit.

Road construction in Johnstown considered ‘critical work,’ crews take extra precautions

PennDOT officials say certain construction projects are still being worked because of safety issues that need to be addressed. They are calling these projects, critical work. The Franklin Street Project is in this category.

Many road construction projects curbed due to coronavirus

The opening of the Tilghman Street Bridge was supposed to happen in June of next year. But now the nearly $22 million project, as well as many other projects, will most likely be delayed as the coronavirus has thrown a construction curveball.

Breaking down the state DOT $50B backstop

Moves by state governments to slash their budgets in the face of COVID-19 pandemic-induced revenue declines re-emphasized the need for a nearly $50 billion federally-funded fiscal “backstop,” according to analysis by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Feds award $239 million to 63 Pa. airports to help in financial recovery from coronavirus pandemic

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao announced Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration is awarding $239.2 million in airport aid to commonwealth airports.

Construction curveball: Pandemic causes PennDOT, contractors to change road work protocols

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and some contractors have been collaborating for decades, using their knowledge and experience to develop working relationships and common practices at construction sites.



Coronavirus is the newest threat to highway funding

April 16, 2020

Despite the troubles that swirl around us, there was a glimmer of positivity this week as the American Road & Transportation Builders Association released its annual report on the condition of the nation’s bridges.

In terms of the percentage of faulty bridges among all that the Commonwealth owns, Pennsylvania has fallen to fifth in the country, having held the dubious distinction of being No. 1 on the list for several years.

Act 89 of 2013 and the Public-Private Partnership known as the PA Rapid Bridge Replacement Program are largely responsible for the improvement. In 2013, Pennsylvania had more than 6,000 faulty bridges, and that number has been reduced by about half (we’re generalizing a bit here because different bridge counters have different ways for assessing and counting them).

In any event, ARTBA says the percentage of Pennsylvania’s faulty bridges has fallen to 15.3% of its total, sandwiched between South Dakota’s 17% and Louisiana’s 13.2%. Rhode Island tops the list with nearly one-quarter its spans rated as deficient. Rhode Island has 779 bridges compared with Pennsylvania’s 22,911.

Reacting to ARTBA’s report, APC’s Bob Latham noted that while the improved ranking is welcome news, there is considerable trouble on the horizon as tax revenue declines due to improving fuel efficiency, inflation increases the cost of labor and materials, and revenue raised to build and maintain highways continues to be diverted for non-transportation uses.

And a new and possibly more devastating funding challenge has raised its head. The nationwide lockdowns to fight the spread of COVID-19 are keeping people at home and their cars in the garage. It will have a yet-to-be determined negative impact on the fuel tax revenue available to repair and maintain our highways.

For the specific Pennsylvania bridge condition data, click here.



PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 15

April 14, 2020

Traffic drop from stay-at-home orders could imperil road projects

While that makes it easier to patch potholes, it also could spell trouble for road and bridge projects. The longer motorists remain off the roads, the harder it will be for states to afford repairs in the months and years ahead.

Transportation Secretary Chao announces $25 billion to help public transportation

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration announced a total of $25 billion in federal funding allocations to help the nation’s public transportation systems respond to the coronavirus.

AASHTO asks congress for $50B fiscal backstop for state DOTs

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials sent a letter to congressional leadership on April 6 requesting the immediate emergency injection of $49.95 billion to offset an estimated 30% loss in state transportation revenues over the next 18 months.

Construction companies in Pennsylvania cautiously return to work

As critical highway and bridge projects across the state resume, Navarro & Wright Consulting Engineering Inc. is one of the companies that received a green light to start.

State Police: 76 percent decline in traffic volume on turnpike

It’s no secret there are fewer cars on the road with many of you staying home– and State Police say they have the data to support the decline.

PennDOT reopens additional roadside rest areas

PennDOT is reopening indoor facilities at five additional rest areas statewide. Rest areas were temporarily closed statewide on March 17 in response to Governor Tom Wolf’s mitigation guidance regarding COVID-19 to ensure that proper safety and sanitation protocols were in place. Twenty-eight select rest areas across Pennsylvania have since reopened.



PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 14

April 6, 2020

ARTBA survey: Transportation projects are active in most states

Construction crews in most states continued to work on critical transportation infrastructure projects as of late March while taking necessary precautions to protect their workforces from COVID-19, according to a March 31 survey of American Road & Transportation Builders Association members.

Pennsylvania halting pay for 9,000 state workers

Pennsylvania will stop paying about 9,000 state workers whose offices have been closed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Friday.

PennDOT eases back to work on critical road projects after coronavirus hiatus

PennDOT returned to work on 61 projects across the state, including reconstructing Route 100 in Lehigh County. Construction crews completed work on a waterline on the highway Thursday, PennDOT spokesman Ron Young said.

‘Critical’ Franklin Street roadwork to go ahead during pandemic

Road improvement project in the Johnstown area and two bridge upgrades in Bedford County are on PennDOT’s list of 61 “emergency and critical” projects that will go ahead during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus won’t stop $270 million Interstate 78 upgrade in Berks County, PennDOT announces

PennDOT on Thursday activated 61 emergency road and bridge projects, including a $270 million upgrade on Interstate 78 in Berks County.

Coronavirus in Pa.: I-83 Mount Rose, other PennDOT projects resume

It’s back to work on some construction sites in central Pennsylvania amid the coronavirus pandemic. PennDOT had suspended all construction in mid-March because of the virus. On Thursday, the agency released a list of 61 critical highway and bridge projects across the Commonwealth that will resume work.