PHIA News Digest – Vol. 2, No. 9

February 27, 2017

PDSITELOGO2State police municipal coverage costs $600 million

It costs $600 million a year for state troopers to provide full-time police services in nearly 1,300 municipalities, the state police commissioner said Thursday at a Senate budget hearing. Commissioner Col. Tyree Blocker broke down the per-person — also known as per capita — cost at $234 annually for full-time services to 2.5 million Pennsylvania residents living in those municipalities.

Budget realities make Wolf’s cop tax debate-worthy

Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing a $25 per person tax on municipalities without a police force to raise $63 million in funds for the state police, a plan bound to have its share of critics. It’s entirely understandable that those who lead municipalities that get their police protection for free from state police would resist any move to change that.

Route 219 work motoring along, but funding for completion stalls

The biggest challenge when it comes to expanding the region’s transportation connections is funding.

Allocations from outside sources that helped ensure the completion of Route 219 from Somerset to Meyersdale have been discontinued by legislation, meaning PennDOT officials must stay within the funding distributed by the state each year.

Johnstown considers redeveloping train station

With the support of PennDOT, a new steering committee has been formed to look at options for redeveloping Johnstown’s Train Station. In January, community stakeholders began working with project consultants to plan for possible futures for the historic station. Read more


PHIA News Digest – Vol. 2, No. 8

February 20, 2017

Proposed state police fee a bargain compared to costs of municipal forces

Valley municipalities relying on Pennsylvania State Police for primary coverage may be forced to pay a new fee for the service, but it’s substantially cheaper than what neighboring municipalities already spend on local police departments.

Small towns lose sleep over state police fee: Can places like Pillow afford crime protection?

Like many rural communities, Pillow relies solely on the state police for protection. Borough officials say troopers seldom patrol here and rarely respond to anything as dramatic as the two recent bank heists. When state troopers do come to Pillow, however, their services are free of charge.

That could soon change.

PennDOT official: State making progress on structurally deficient bridges

A new report calls for more investment on bridge repairs, saying 2106 federal transportation data revealed motorists travel across the nation’s 55,710 structurally compromised bridges 185 million times daily.

Turnpike bridge repair draws national talent

A search for expertise has stretched across the country in the effort to repair the Delaware River Turnpike Bridge.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission have hired four construction firms, eight engineering contractors, and two national engineering experts, including the man who first publicly identified welds as a factor that caused a crack in a beam in the bridge, to assist in the repair work. That crack prompted closure of the bridge Jan. 20, and it is expected to remain closed to traffic until at least April. Read more


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.


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