PHIA News Digest – Vol. 2, No. 7

February 14, 2017

PDSITELOGO2Let’s rally around that one unifying issue: Infrastructure

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.

Gov. Wolf’s state trooper fee would free gas taxes for road and bridge repairs

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 in municipalities with police departments shouldn’t pay for police protection for others

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.

Police protection costs vary widely across Pennsylvania

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.

York County would pay $1.5M for troopers under Wolf plan

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.



PHIA News Digest – Vol. 2, No. 6

February 6, 2017

PDSITELOGO2As Trump Vows Building Splurge, Famed Traffic Choke Point Offers Warning

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.

Trump’s Highway Plan May Face Same Old Roadblocks In Congress

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.

Bridge linking Pennsylvania, New Jersey turnpikes to stay closed 2 more months

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.

$9M prep work to fix closed Delaware River Bridge begins

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.

Delaware River bridge repairs progress, but mystery remains

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.



PHIA News Digest – Vol. 2, No. 5

January 30, 2017

PDSITELOGO2Lone bidder for I-95 Scudder toll bridge approved; will borrow $475M

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.

As gas-tax profits decline, more states may turn to tolls

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.

Pittsburgh tunnels are getting ‘enhanced cell service’

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.

How the Midwest could become a hub for advanced transportation

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.

Speed-detection cameras could be installed at construction zones to slow speeders

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.



PHIA News Digest – Vol. 2, No. 4

January 24, 2017

PDSITELOGO2Delaware River turnpike bridge between Pa., N.J. will be closed at least 2 weeks

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and New Jersey Turnpike Authority’s preliminary evaluation of a fracture discovered Friday on the bridge that carries Interstate 276 over the Delaware River has determined the need for a continued closure for an indefinite period of time.

Construction is now taking place to stabilize the bridge while engineers engage in a more comprehensive assessment and structural analysis necessary to determine a permanent repair plan, according to a press release.

Pittsburgh, Penn State chosen as national autonomous vehicle testing sites

Expect to see even more autonomous vehicles driving around Pennsylvania in the coming months. The federal Department of Transportation accepted PennDOT’s request to make Pennsylvania a National Proving Ground — testing site — for Autonomous Vehicle Technologies on January 19, one month after PennDOT submitted their application.

According to a press release, the DOT chose the 10 sites out of 60 applicants based on each site’s ability to manage various roadway states, safety conditions and types of vehicles.

Feds give Pa. an extension on identity card security upgrades

Thanks to an extension granted by the federal Department of Homeland Security, Pennsylvania has been given until early June to show compliance with “REAL ID” security upgrades.

The extension forestalls – to the great good fortune of event planners, delivery truck drivers and anyone else headed for federal offices, courthouses or military bases – the federal government’s refusal to recognize Pennsylvania driver’s licenses as a valid form of identification. Read more


PHIA News Digest – Vol. 2, No. 3

January 16, 2017

PDSITELOGO2Our view: Onerous gas tax delivers needed repairs

It is easy, but too simple, to grouse about gas prices in this state. Roads and bridges make modern life and commerce possible. It simply won’t do to have them cratered and crumbling. Just a mile of two-lane undivided road in a rural area can cost $2 million to $3 million to build, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. If the state were not taking money out at the pump to fund roads and bridges, it would have to find the money somewhere else.

Wondering how to navigate a roundabout? PennDOT’s video shows how.

Because Pennsylvania is on track to install more roundabouts in the coming years, PennDOT created this video to show you just how easy they are to navigate. After you watch the video, you’ll know how to use both single and multi-lane roundabouts whether in a vehicle, on a bicycle or on foot. Keys to navigating a roundabout are to slow down and yield.

Lackawanna, Luzerne resume effort to merge public transportation

Vision is needed to see beyond the innumerable obstacles to good governance that are raised by Pennsylvania’s archaic system of fragmented, parochial local government. Duplication of local services and bureaucracies due to boundary lines on maps, rather than actual need and capabilities on the ground, wastes hundreds of millions of public dollars every year. It’s encouraging, then, that Lackawanna and Luzerne counties have resumed an effort to merge their public transit systems after abandoning the initiative in 2015.

Centre County considers $5 vehicle registration surcharge

On Tuesday, the Centre County commissioners provided an update to the $5 motor-vehicle registration fee increase ordinance proposed by the board last week. In 2013, the Act 89 transportation bill signed by then-Gov. Tom Corbett allowed counties to raise the vehicle registration fee by $5, but the county declined to take the necessary steps to do so until this year.

Gov. Wolf announces 51 projects to improve transportation alternatives

Governor Tom Wolf and PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards announced 51 projects to improve transportation alternatives are in line for $33 million in federal funds. The complete list is available at the link above.

Uber lost $2.2 billion in Pittsburgh self-driving rollout, report finds

Ride-sharing giant Uber lost $2.2 billion in the first 9 months of 2016 as it prepared to launch an ambitious, costly and at times controversial fleet of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh in September, a new report finds.

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