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Buttigieg tapped to be new transportation secretary

December 18, 2020

Nearly one year ago, then-presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg unveiled his $1 trillion infrastructure plan and began to weave it into his campaign. Having been selected this week by President-elect Joe Biden to be U.S. Department of Transportation secretary, we may see many elements of that plan come to fruition in coming years.

Infrastructure and environmental quality are a high priority for Biden. During the campaign, he spoke of modernizing highways and roads and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

It appears that Biden and Buttigieg have similar goals. Buttigieg’s plan included:

  • Infusion of $165 billion for the Highway Trust Fund to make it solvent through 2029, through a user-fee system such as a vehicle-miles traveled fee, replacing the gas tax.
  • Creating 6 million “well-paying” jobs.
  • Updating and fixing at least half of all roads and bridges in poor conditions by 2030.
  • Advancing autonomous vehicle technology.
  • Expanding the market for electric vehicles, an initiative the vehicle manufacturers are beginning to embrace globally.

Despite bipartisan support for improving transportation infrastructure generally, policy differences remain. Finding the resources to fund these initiatives will not be easy either, and Buttigieg awaits Senate confirmation.

Still, given the stated importance of infrastructure by members of the new administration, transportation advocates have reason for optimism as we approach 2021. A more detailed recap of Buttigieg’s plan can be found here.

 

Featured, News

PA treasurer pledges loans to avert highway project shutdowns – But future projects are stalled

December 4, 2020

The highway construction industry averted the shutdown of nearly 400 construction projects across Pennsylvania this week as Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella pledged to shore up the Motor License Fund through the end of the fiscal year.

The shutdown, which would have begun on Tuesday, threatened to cause thousands of layoffs as we enter the holiday season. Torsella’s action followed discussions among House and Senate leadership and the Governor’s Budget Office.

“It would have been another significant setback for the construction industry, which already had been shut down for many weeks earlier this year because of the coronavirus,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner.  “However, PennDOT has stopped bidding any future work, so this is not back to business as usual. Industry layoffs are still looming.”

Torsella’s announcement noted that his action “won’t solve the underlying issues that led to this crisis. But they will give PennDOT and the General Assembly time to get to work on resolving those issues early in 2021, and keep Pennsylvanians working in the meantime.”

Hopefully, this will translate to addressing long-term transportation funding needs, not just plugging an immediate hole.

 

News

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 46

November 24, 2020

PennDOT seeks public-private partnership to address major bridges

Through a public-private partnership, PennDOT replaced more than 550 small bridges across the state in just under three years. Now, PennDOT hopes to do the same to address major bridges statewide.

Hundreds of Pa. road projects to halt next week without PennDOT funding

About $600 million of road and bridge projects funded by PennDOT ― including many in the Lehigh Valley ― will stop Dec. 1 unless new sources of money can be found to keep them going.

Infrastructure improvements must be a priority

State Rep. Tim Hennessey, the chairman of the House Transportation committee, said the proposal to toll Pennsylvania bridges is still in the preliminary stages.

Facing an $8.1 billion gap in funding, PennDOT is looking to the public for opinions

PennDOT has drafted the PennDOT Pathways program to explore sustainable transportation options, but it needs public input about the plan. Information is accessible here and feedback will be accepted through December 17, 2020.

$11B budget package passes Pa. legislature

Democrats criticized the use of environmental program money to balance the budget, and warned that hundreds of transportation projects would stall, inflicting layoffs on construction crews.

PennDOT launches the I-70 Belle Vernon Bridge to Bentleyville reconstruction project

PennDOT District 12-0 is pleased to announce the beginning of preliminary design to modernize an eight-mile section of Interstate-70, between Bentleyville (Exit 32) and the Belle Vernon Bridge in Washington County.

 

News

PennDOT, Turnpike Commission join in platooning demo

November 2, 2020

PennDOT and the Pa. Turnpike Commission participated in a recent demonstration of automated truck platooning, consisting of a 280-mile mission from the Pittsburgh area to food banks in Ohio and Michigan.

“Platooning” is a term for linking two or more trucks in a convoy using technology and automated driving systems that maintain a set distance between vehicles.

The demonstration was under the auspices of the Smart Belt Coalition, consisting of transportation agencies in Ohio and Michigan, as well as Pennsylvania. The trucks carried food donations to the food banks.

PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner noted that platooning could provide several benefits, including improved safety and reduced congestion, along with helping to fill a truck driver shortage.

“It hasn’t been that long ago that platooning was just an idea, but now we’re seeing the idea bloom into the testing and demonstration phases,” Wagner said. “As is the case with autonomous vehicles, these things are happening much more quickly than many people anticipated.”

For more information about the platooning demonstration project, click here.

 

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Pa. posts first-quarter revenue results

October 12, 2020

In our quest to present positive news, sometimes we have to settle for news that’s not as bad as it could have been.

And so it is with Pennsylvania’s revenue report for the first quarter of the 2020-21 fiscal year. September collections totaled $3.3 billion in General Fund revenue, 8.3% greater than projections.

Collections for the fiscal year to date were $9.9 billion, 4.9% more than projections.
Moreover, the Motor License Fund, which receives its revenue primarily from fuel taxes and license and registration fees, has collected $770 million year to date, essentially equal to projections, another positive sign.

However, PennDOT estimates that the Commonwealth’s transportation funding gap is $9 billion annually. The transportation construction industry has launched an advocacy campaign aimed at policymakers in hopes that transportation funding needs will be recognized and addressed.

An explanation of how we arrived at this point, and steps that would help reduce the gap, can be found at this link.