PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 3

January 22, 2020 by · Leave a Comment
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Mark Compton: Safety drives every decision at turnpike commission

The turnpike’s rate of fatalities is 0.22 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled compared to the national average for interstates, which is 0.53. Our injury rates are similarly lower.

Southern Beltway on track for fall 2021 completion

After slow progress around the holidays, construction crews are back to work on the Southern Beltway project, which is on schedule to open to traffic in fall 2021. The $800 million Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission project will stretch 13 miles from Route 22 near the Pittsburgh International Airport to Interstate 79 in Robinson and Cecil townships.

Rep. White briefs stakeholders on transportation revenue recommendations

January 16, 2020 by · Leave a Comment
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Last month, we reported on the results of a study of transportation funding options by a 10-member task force made up of members of the House Republican Caucus. This week, its chair, state Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia), briefed the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition on the recommendations.

The recommendations included numerous options for addressing transportation funding needs, such as:

  • Lessening or halting revenue diversions from the Motor License Fund, the constitutionally protected repository for fuel taxes and license and registration fees.
  • Expanding public-private partnership opportunities.
  • Streamlining permitting processes.
  • Changing the way large highway projects are bid out.
  • Giving local governments the ability to impose additional fees.
  • Creating county infrastructure banks.

Representative White filled in some details and provided insight into the task force’s deliberations. PHIA and other transportation stakeholders are hopeful that the General Assembly and governor will agree to accelerate the rollback of the revenue that is being diverted from the Motor License Fund. Rolling back the entire diverted amount to zero would make more than $700 million available for bridge and highway projects without raising fuel taxes and license and registration fees.


PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 2

January 14, 2020 by · Leave a Comment
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Pa. House passes bill to study exempting newer vehicles from emissions testing

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives wants the state to conduct a study that will determine how old a vehicle can be to be exempted from the state’s annual emissions testing requirement and still comply with federal environmental rules.

Empower communities to protect cyclists and pedestrians

Parking protected bike lanes and pedestrian plazas not only provide more safety, they have been shown to attract investment from young professionals and the kind of forward-thinking employers our cities desperately need.

Luzerne County councilmen vouching for $5 vehicle fee ordinance

A hot topic in Luzerne County is the 5-dollar vehicle registration fee that residents no longer want to pay.

Electric cars will challenge state power grids

As Washington and other states urge their residents to buy electric vehicles — a crucial component of efforts to reduce carbon emissions — they also need to make sure the electric grid can handle it.

Rep. Hennessey announces reelection bid to 26th Dist. House seat

State Rep. Tim Hennessey, R-26th Dist., has announced his candidacy to seek a 14th term in Harrisburg. Hennessey is majority chair of the House Transportation Committee.

No toll hikes on bridges across the Delaware River — for now

The Delaware River Port Authority has some good news for drivers who use its four bridges: A no-toll-hike pledge is being extended for an extra year.

Public input sought for potential region-wide transportation emissions cap-and-invest program

A draft version of a regional cap-and-invest program for the transportation sector is open for public input until the end of February. Pennsylvania is one of 13 states, plus the District of Columbia, involved in the Transportation and Climate Initiative of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States, which is facilitated by the Georgetown Climate Center.

Plans for next round of Lehigh Valley transit projects begin without Route 22 widening

The Lehigh Valley Transportation Study prepared a list of nearly $563 million of projects it intends to tackle in the next 12 years, but widening Route 22 was not on it. By voting Wednesday to send the draft plan to PennDOT’s central office, study members acknowledged they do not have the funds to widen the Lehigh Valley’s busiest and most congested highway.

New bill could ban drivers from using handheld cellphones in PA

Pennsylvania could soon join 20 other states in banning drivers from using handheld cellphones while operating a vehicle.


PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 1

January 6, 2020 by · Comments Off on PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 1
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Pa. Turnpike tragedy: 5 dead in ‘horrific incident’ that could take weeks to investigate

Five people died in what Pennsylvania State Police called a chain-reaction crash near mile marker 86 in the westbound lanes in Mt. Pleasant Township. More than 50 others were taken to hospitals across the region.

EDITORIAL: Answer needed on Turnpike toll spirals

Benjamin Franklin famously noted there were but two certainties in life: Death and taxes. Were he around today, he would no doubt add a third: Toll hikes on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

SEPTA General Manger Leslie Richards joins Weitzman faculty

The University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design welcomes former PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards to the faculty in the Department of City and Regional Planning.

Get an electric car for Christmas? Here’s how many places Pa. has to charge it

Pennsylvania has 1,131 electric car charging stations statewide, which is, frankly, far more than we thought the state would have. It’s also better than some of our neighboring states: Ohio, at 1,115 is the Keystone State’s nearest rival, while New Jersey has 846 charging stations.


PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 52

December 30, 2019 by · Comments Off on PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 52
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Pennsylvania wants to fix its Medicaid transit program but there’s no easy way

Currently, the state allows counties to decide how to transport residents. A proposed alternative would pay independent brokers to coordinate transportation across regions. A state-commissioned report, delivered to state legislators Friday, said both options have disadvantages. It didn’t recommend one approach over the other for overhauling the Medical Assistance Transportation Program, the state’s answer to a federal mandate to offer free nonemergency medical transportation for Pennsylvania’s 2.8 million Medicaid patients.

Jeep Cherokee watching: Pa. to start automated speed enforcement in work zones

Beginning Jan. 4, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Pennsylvania Turnpike will begin a 60-day pilot program to formally test what’s called the Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement program. The program is designed to cause drivers to slow down in construction areas by setting up speed monitoring equipment in work areas.

Ex-lawmaker: Now is time to fix Pa. transportation network

A task force report focusing on critical weaknesses in Pennsylvania’s transportation network was released in Harrisburg as the year drew to a close. A former state lawmaker who now runs the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce is calling it a good starting point for action.

Brian Allen named district executive for PennDOT District 10

Brian N. Allen, P.E., has been appointed the district executive for the western region of PennDOT. He is responsible for overseeing all functions District 10, which serves Armstrong, Butler, Clarion, Indiana and Jefferson counties.


PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 51

December 24, 2019 by · Comments Off on PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 51
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Pa. Turnpike officials expecting record-setting holiday travel this year

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is anticipating a record-setting holiday travel period, with more than six million people hitting the turnpike through New Year’s Day.

1-99 designation draws closer

The designation of U.S. Route 15 as an interstate is getting closer. At the Dec. 13 Develop Tioga meeting, President Alan Quimby reported on a recent meeting with PennDOT officials. A draft version of the deficiencies postponing the designation was released and contains only two items that need to be corrected, said Quimby.

Multi-state pact could curb transportation carbon emissions, raise gas prices

The proposal — known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative — is aimed at reducing pollutants contributing to global warming. An alliance of Northeast and mid-Atlantic states has been working on the project that would create a cap on pollution from transportation.

Before scrapping Pa.’s annual auto emissions inspections, lawmakers call for a study first

State lawmakers remain interested in enabling most Pennsylvanians to avoid spending about $40 annually on auto emission inspections, but they are tapping the brakes a bit. The reason? Lawmakers want to be sure they don’t risk millions in federal aid.


Safety, funding measures top 2019 highway issues

December 19, 2019 by · Comments Off on Safety, funding measures top 2019 highway issues
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In our final edition of E-motion for 2019, we reflect on the public policy highlights of this year.

At the top of the list was the enactment of the automated speed enforcement measure. The pilot program began in the fall with a “pre-enforcement testing period.” Beginning next month, motorists who drive through work zones at more than 10 mph over the speed limit will begin receiving citations after a first-offense warning. The initial fine will be $75, increasing to $150 for subsequent violations.

Automated speed enforcement tops the list because, as much as we talk about highway funding, work zone safety is and always has been the construction industry’s highest priority. Data show that Maryland’s program, which has been in place for several years, has reduced excessive speeding to less than 1 percent of drivers after beginning at 7 percent.

There also were positive developments on the funding front. As diversions from the Motor License Fund continue to be rolled back by 4 percent a year, legislation in the Senate would accelerate the rollback, making more money available for highway work. A House Republican task force also recommended accelerating the rollback, so it appears that the idea has a good chance of advancing in the second half of the current legislative session.

Additionally, the House task force recommended expanding public-private partnership opportunities, streamlining permitting processes, changing the way large highway projects are bid out, giving local governments the ability to impose additional fees and creating county infrastructure banks. We expect that those recommendations will be transformed into legislation early next year.

As we bid farewell to 2019, we leave you with best wishes for the holidays and hope you have a prosperous and healthy New Year. We’ll keep you posted as we turn the page to 2020.


PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 50

December 16, 2019 by · Comments Off on PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 50
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Super load headed to destination in Clinton County

A slow-moving super load is expected to arrive at its destination in Clinton County on Monday. The industrial dryer headed for First Quality Tissue in Lock Haven began its journey from Erie more than a week ago.

Truckers turn to U.S. Supreme Court over Turnpike toll diversion

Truck drivers who claim the Pennsylvania Turnpike is illegally using tolls to pay for non-turnpike items such as public transit have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their lawsuit.


PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 49

December 9, 2019 by · Comments Off on PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 49
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Pa. leaders honor former Sen. Doyle Corman

Former Gov. Tom Ridge recalled Doyle Corman’s leadership after becoming governor in the 1990s. “Doyle was an important voice in the state Senate for many years and was a wonderful partner to our administration in the mid-90′s when we first came to Harrisburg,” Ridge said in a statement. “He showed particular leadership in helping to advance critical transportation legislation that is a hallmark of his distinguished legislative career.”

Editorial: Transportation woes and future of Pennsylvania

The litany of complaints as detailed in a legislative task force report, “Build to Lead” described the commonwealth’s transportation crisis of “crumbling roads, failing bridges, aging rail cars and buses along with hours of time wasted on congested highways and inner-city gridlock.”

Lehigh, Northampton counties receive $400M for road projects

PennDOT recently awarded Lehigh and Northampton counties nearly $400 million in Interstate transportation funding for Lehigh Valley projects in the 2021 Twelve Year Interstate Program.

Pa. Turnpike tolls increase in 2020 — here’s how much they’re going up

Starting on Jan. 5, Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls are going up for the 12th consecutive year, making it more costly than ever to cross the state. Under the new fares, it will cost $53.50 to travel from Neshaminy Falls — the easternmost start of the mainline — to Warrendale — the final toll plaza in the west.

Radar bill controversy turns on dispute over freezing out PT cops

The 50-year fight over whether to arm local police with radar for speed enforcement has taken another turn. The House is poised to pass legislation to allow radar use in many local police departments, but its proposal would bar part-time police departments and part-time officers from using the equipment.

PennDOT’s I-81 project will start in 3-5 years and could cost $150-250 million

PennDOT on Wednesday approved a plan for Interstate 81 in both directions. It’ll add a third lane on a 4.5 mile stretch in Wilkes-Barre, between exits 164 and 168, while replacing eight bridges and realigning 2.5 miles of I-81 southbound.

Public input wanted to help guide I-81 improvements, website launched

The site is, which is part of the I-81 Improvement Strategy. Information collected will be used toward setting priorities and funding future projects.

A looming cliff: It’s time to fund our roads right

With the state’s coffers flush enough to boost its savings account, it’s time to give turnpike drivers a break from the big toll increases of the past 12 years; another 6% boost is coming in January. State police shouldn’t be relying on a source of money meant for road repairs. And Pennsylvanians, who’ve been paying the nation’s highest gasoline tax since 2014, deserve to see those funds spent as promised.

Route 22 widening in Lehigh Valley cut

PennDOT plans to make $409 million of improvements to Interstate 78 in the years ahead, but at the cost of significantly delaying several major transportation projects in the Lehigh Valley.


Task force unveils transportation funding proposals

December 4, 2019 by · Comments Off on Task force unveils transportation funding proposals
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A PA House Republican task force whose mission was to address transportation funding needs has finished its assignment and presented its report.

The task force, chaired by Rep. Martina White of Philadelphia, made several recommendations, beginning with lessening or halting revenue diversions from the Motor License Fund, the constitutionally protected repository for fuel taxes and license and registration fees.

As we have noted many times, $9 billion has been diverted from that fund since 2002. Nearly half of that diversion has occurred since 2012-13, including more than $700 million in this fiscal year.

Pennsylvania’s tax rate is approximately 58 cents per gallon – now second-highest in the country – and more than a quarter of that is diverted for things other than highway construction. The task force recommended that the planned rollback of diversions be accelerated from the current 4 percent annually to 8 percent.

The task force also recommended expanding public-private partnership opportunities, streamlining permitting processes, changing the way large highway projects are bid out, giving local governments the ability to impose additional fees and creating county infrastructure banks.

While the task force’s recommendations could help in the short term – say, three to five years – we have yet to establish a long-term vision for how the ideal a transportation infrastructure could evolve beyond that.

For transportation advocates, the 43-page report is worth a read. You’ll find it at this link.


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