PHIA NEWS DIGEST

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 22

May 28, 2019

By the numbers: Pennsylvania ranks 5th highest for its share of structurally deficient bridges

Pennsylvania finished fifth among the 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., in a new analysis examining which states have the highest percentage of bridges in poor condition.

Final phase of Turnpike project starts Monday

The work began six years ago, now a major construction project on the Pennsylvania Turnpike is reaching its final phase Monday. The goal was widen the turnpike between the Allegheny Valley and Butler Valley interchanges.

SEPTA approves $2 billion for operating, capital budget

SEPTA on Thursday approved a $1.49 billion operating budget and a $675 million capital budget for the coming fiscal year. The budget, which will take effect July 1, includes no fare increases. The agency maintains a schedule of increasing fares every three years, and hikes are due in fiscal year 2021.

Mayors appear increasingly concerned about infrastructure

As the prospects for a federal infrastructure package this year become vanishingly thin, mayors are becoming more concerned about infrastructure in their own cities.

Gridlock in D.C. means no action on aging bridges, crumbling roads

Business leaders and communities across the country are expressing alarm that the bitter partisan impasse in Washington is paralyzing efforts to revamp the nation’s deteriorating and outdated infrastructure.

These are 12 of the biggest road projects to slow your travels in Pa. this summer

But what are the really big projects under construction this summer? Here’s a look at the largest, highest-priced projects being undertaken in each of 12 transportation districts across the state.

Pa. lawmakers move to enact fee for full-time state police service

State lawmakers are moving to enact a fee on communities that rely on Pennsylvania State Police for law enforcement after decades of diverting infrastructure funding to cover those costs. State Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, introduced a bill last week; its Senate companion is expected to be introduced in early June, when budget negotiations start in earnest.

Feds certify Pennsylvania’s Real ID system meets standards

Pennsylvania’s Real ID identification system is now in compliance with federal regulations, more than a year before the IDs will be needed for commercial airline passengers and those entering secured federal facilities.

Pennsylvania Turnpike to resume mass transit borrowing

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has decided to resume borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars for SEPTA and other mass transit systems in the state. The borrowing had been suspended due to a lawsuit.

 

 

PHIA NEWS DIGEST

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 21

May 21, 2019

The Pa. Turnpike toll debacle is our next financial crisis. This is how to fix it

Believing that criticism without a solution is unfair, here’s an idea shared last spring with then-House Majority Leader Dave Reed, and with others since: Raise the personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 4 percent.

Giant Eagle adding car-charging stations thanks to $660K in state grants

The state Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday announced $660,000 in grants to Giant Eagle to add electric car charging stations in Allegheny, Butler and Washington counties aimed at expansion of the state’s alternative fuel highway network.

Ohio, Pennsylvania plan interstate system for managing road work

Ohio and Pennsylvania will soon start developing an interstate system for managing road construction projects officials hope will reduce confusion for motorists and transportation authorities.

A modest proposal to fund transportation — without raising taxes

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale attracted statewide attention recently with an audit showing that during the last six years, Pennsylvania had diverted more than $4.2 billion in revenue intended to be used to fix and maintain the state’s roads and bridges. Instead, that money was used to fund State Police operations.

Philadelphia unveils $200 million street repaving plan

The City of Philadelphia released its plan for the 2019 paving season Wednesday, as it starts the process of repaving roads around the city.

Centre County planning looking for citizen input on State College Area Connector project

Centre County residents have an opportunity to make their voices heard concerning a $20 million allocation to the State College Area Connector project, which aims to improve U.S. Route 322 from the Seven Mountains to State College.

Fixing an aging interstate: How I-95 construction challenges illustrate US road issues

Here’s a look at what’s happening and what’s needed to fix the 1,917-mile route from Miami to Houlton, Maine.

Valley should back public transit

No other venture in the region comes close to potentially impacting a larger number of people like an affordable and accessible public transportation system. Nearly every need-based review of the Susquehanna Valley inevitably points to a lack of public transportation as a considerable hindrance to growth and workforce development.

Plans announced to add more options for bicyclists across the state

PennDOT plans to unveil a draft of the department’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan on May 30 via webcast. Although details are limited, the improvements will include adding more trails and protected bike lanes.

 

PHIA NEWS DIGEST

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 20

May 15, 2019

Is Clean Air Act’s vehicle emissions testing requirement outdated?

The emissions requirements are part of the Clean Air Act passed by Congress in 1990 requiring that metropolitan areas with a population of more than 100,000 require the testing. But cars have changed in the nearly 30 years since the Clean Air Act was passed, and only about 3 percent of the more than seven million Pennsylvania vehicles that are tested fail.

Turnpike CEO: Agency is holding down costs

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has done its part to hold down costs, CEO Mark Compton said last week. But the agency still could face significant financial problems in the next few years unless the state Legislature provides some relief, he maintained two days after the agency adopted a fiscal year 2019-20 operating budget of $432 million.

Lessons for Michigan on quickly replacing old bridges, from a state that’s done it

In Pennsylvania, the state launched a $1.8 billion program in 2015 to replace 558 structurally deficient state-owned bridges, with the last of them expected to be finished this year. The program leverages a 2012 state law that allows for “P3s” (public-private partnerships) on transportation projects.

Lawmaker proposes new highway to link Mon-Fayette Expressway to Pittsburgh

Rep. Mike Puskaric, R-Jefferson Hills, is pushing for construction of a three-mile, four-lane highway known as the Route 885 Connector to link the Mon-Fayette Expressway near Dravosburg to the city near the Glenwood Bridge.

It’s time to get our heads together on infrastructure

During another challenging time, the late Gov. Robert P. Casey Sr., father of Pennsylvania’s current U.S. Senator, offered the sage advice that “We need to put our heads together instead of banging them together.”

Bond market ‘favorable’ on possible resumption of PA turnpike borrowing

Despite ongoing litigation, the Pennsylvania Turnpike has gotten a positive response from the bond market as it considers whether to resume borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars for mass transit.

State ranks No. 2 in U.S. for bad bridges, with some in central Pa. among the worst: report

Pennsylvania is ranked No. 2 for having the most structurally deficient bridges in the United States, according to an American Road and Transportation Builders Association report released in April.

Here’s what you need to know about the SmartMoves transportation plan

Do you have strong opinions about the future of commuting? Our leaders want to hear them. Starting today, the SmartMoves for a Changing Region draft plan is available for public comment.

Paul Muschick: Why one Turnpike scofflaw is paying only $11,500 of his $128,000 bill

Jovin Jose, the Bucks County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Stiff and Robinson, told me the cases can be more complicated than they seem. If they are resolved without the expense of a trial, the Turnpike has been willing to accept what it is owed in tolls and not worry about the accrued fees, which make up most of the total due, Jose said.

 

PHIA NEWS DIGEST

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 19

May 7, 2019

Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission proposes $31.7 billion in transportation projects through 2045

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission will begin a series of meetings Monday to display a draft long-range plan for the region that highlights $31.7 billion worth of expected transportation projects through 2045. The plan, called “SmartMoves for a Changing Region,” includes $17.3 billion for road and bridge projects, and $14.4 billion for transit projects.

Driver had $128,000 in unpaid Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls and fines

A Trevose, Pa. man is learning that there’s no such thing as a free ride on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Jeffrey Stiff is considered the state’s worst toll evader. Stiff has racked up nearly $128,000 in unpaid tolls and fines.

Here’s why SEPTA’s improvement projects are back on hold

If the transit agency isn’t able to resume bridge maintenance and other infrastructure projects, some of its routes could end up being at risk by this time next year.

PennDOT inspects Fort Duquesne Bridge after concrete chunks fall

PennDOT officials conducted an emergency inspection on the Fort Duquesne Bridge after pieces of concrete fell to the ground on the North Shore on Tuesday.

Pa. Turnpike toll lawsuit keeps SEPTA improvements on hold

SEPTA’s state funding is hovering at a more than 10-year low due to a federal lawsuit that just won’t go away.

PennDOT OKs funding for 27 freight-rail projects

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and PennDOT announced the approval of 27 freight-rail improvement projects and their state share of funding.

Philadelphia traffic ranked one of the worst, so how do we fix it?

Philadelphia’s commute is a near universal source of complaints. Traffic analytics firm, INRIX, ranks the city as the 9th most congested in the country and the 69th wrst in the world.

Landslide costs add to PennDOT’s funding challenges

In a typical year, PennDOT officials budget about $30 million for flooding and landslide damage. In 2018, they spent $127 million fixing that damage, according to PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards.

 

PHIA NEWS DIGEST

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 18

April 29, 2019

$4.2B in gas tax diverted to state police

DePasquale said his new audit of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation shows the agency could be further along in repairing rough highways and fixing 2,829 structurally deficient bridges with the billions of dollars it has used instead to pay to State Police.

Our view: Find lasting state police funding fix

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Thursday issued a reminder that all Pennsylvanians should chew on as they pay one of the nation’s highest gas taxes and yet regularly navigate crumbling roads and bridges meant to be fixed with that money.

Will crumbling bridges force Pennsylvania to approve a fee for State Police?

Harrisburg’s Market Street Bridge provided an appropriate backdrop Thursday, as Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale called on the Legislature to stop diverting money to the State Police that’s supposed to pay for repairs to deteriorating infrastructure.

Professors and students weigh in on $2 million study of Philadelphia-Pittsburgh hyperloop

The hyperloop, proposed by 1997 College and Wharton graduate Elon Musk, would use electric propulsion to move people and freight through a low-pressure tube.

PennDOT to study how wind could affect vehicles on thruway bridge over Susquehanna River

What effect would winds like that have on vehicles on the nearly mile-long Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway bridge after it is finished in 2022? PennDOT wants answers and plans to gather data by installing wind monitors on the bridge across the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

Three Pennsylvania bills seek local speed radar use

Multiple efforts underway at the Pennsylvania statehouse would authorize speed radar use by local police. In 2017, Senators voted in favor of nearly identical legislation. The bill failed to win support in the House.

Penn State named key partner in project to study truck platooning

The Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute (LTI) has announced that Penn State is one of seven key partners recently selected to participate in Phase 1 of a Truck Platooning Early Deployment Assessment.

Pavement problems with PennDOT pilot program

One year after PennDOT touted its use of recycled asphalt to pave rural roads, the agency now says the process failed.

PennDOT to build area’s first ‘diverging diamond’ at I-83 interchange

PennDOT has started work to build a new interchange at Interstate 83 Exit 4 in southern York County, and the end result will be unlike anything drivers have ever seen in this area.

Law to limit license suspensions for drug charges takes effect

A Pennsylvania law that ends the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for people convicted of drug offenses and other crimes unrelated to driving is now in effect. Under Act 95 of 2018, signed by Gov. Tom Wolf in October, driving privileges won’t be taken away for using, possessing or selling controlled substances.