Featured, News

House and Senate Transportation Committees are set

January 15, 2021

As a new session of the General Assembly begins, both legislative houses have announced committee assignments. Those of us with a major interest in transportation are certain to have important measures launched and advanced in the House and Senate Transportation Committees.

There are a few new faces, most notably in the Senate, where Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr., a Johnstown-area Republican, takes the reins as majority chair. Pottstown Republican Tim Hennessey remains as majority chair in the House. Sen. John Sabatina, a Philadelphia Democrat, and Rep. Mike Carroll, a Hughestown Democrat, remain as minority chairs in the Senate and House, respectively.

Langerholc replaces Sen. Kim Ward, who advanced to Senate majority leader. She was a strong supporter of several transportation initiatives, and PHIA and the construction industry wish her well.

It appears that Langerholc, an attorney, is an excellent choice to succeed Ward. According to the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, he has been “a vocal advocate” for upgrading Route 219 between Johnstown and Maryland, as well as adding a second daily Amtrak passenger route between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.

“We look forward to working with Senator Langerholc and the other committee leaders and members to find ways to address the funding needs of our transportation system,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “The needs are great, and the stakes are high, but both committees have capable, supportive members.”

Follow this link to read the Trib-Dem article on Langerholc’s appointment.

 

Featured

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.

 

Featured, News

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.

 

Featured, News

New tool provides highway investment info

June 26, 2020

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association launched a tool this week that highlights the benefits of highway investment across the country.

It shows that Pennsylvania leveraged nearly $1.2 billion in federal funds to spur more than $2.2 billion in highway improvements in the 2018 fiscal year.

Called the ARTBA Highway Dashboard, the tool is designed to provide elected officials and the public with information about how and where states invest their transportation tax dollars. The tool comes as we approach the expiration of the federal FAST Act surface transportation law on Sept. 30.

In Pennsylvania, two-thirds of the cost of projects was for reconstruction or repair work on existing roads. Planning, design and engineering accounted for 13%, added capacity 12% and new construction 1%.

“This tool provides useful information for the public and policymakers as we get closer to the time that decisions on funding will need to be made,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “Sound decisions start with sound data, so we’re pleased to have it available.”

To view the ARTBA Highway Dashboard, click here.

ARTBA is a national trade association for the highway industry, with more than 8,000 public and private-sector members.