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Registration Now Open for 2017 PHIA Annual Transportation Conference & Meeting

August 23, 2017

Registration is now open for the 2017 PHIA Transportation Conference and Annual Meeting, which will be held on Tuesday, September 26, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg.  Click HERE for more information and to register!

 

 

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Committee concludes PA should restore more than $220 million for highway work

March 24, 2017

The Pennsylvania Legislative Budget & Finance Committee has released the long-awaited report determining the appropriate and justifiable amount of Motor License Fund revenue that can be used to fund State Police operations.

PAWIREFRAMEPOLICEUsing the 2015-16 fiscal year as a benchmark, the report said the appropriate amount that year would have been $532.8 million, not the $755 million that was actually diverted. In the current fiscal year, $802 million was diverted, but Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget for next year would reduce that amount by $63 million.

Legislation passed last year mandates that the diverted amount be reduced in each of the next 10 years until it reaches the appropriate level. It is important to note that the Commonwealth has the ability to revise that mandate by enacting new legislation.

At issue was whether the Commonwealth had been diverting more than permitted by the Pennsylvania Constitution, which requires that revenue from fuel taxes and license and registration fees be used strictly for highway purposes. The report concluded that more than $220 million that is being diverted should not be, enough to resurface more than 1,100 lane miles of roadway, or to design, replace and maintain 138 bridges for the next 25 years.

The $532.8 figure results from the committee’s conclusion that State Police expend 47 percent of the agency’s resources for activities related to highway safety.

While the report answers an important question, the method by which the Commonwealth would restore the Motor License Fund resources to the proper level remains unresolved. Governor Wolf has proposed collecting a fee of $25 per resident from municipalities that rely on full-time State Police coverage rather than a local or regional police force, and several legislators also have offered proposals.

To view the full report, click HERE.  To view the report highlights, click HERE.

 

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The times they are a-changin’

January 18, 2017

Although we are and always have been the Pa. Highway Information Association, we tend to take a broad view of transportation, thinking of it as a single, integrated, multi-modal system of mobility.

MOVINGFORWARDThis month, Governing Magazine published an insightful article titled, “Urban Transportation’s Multimodal Future,” in which author Bob Graves asserts the following:

“The future, more and more urban transportation experts are coming to believe, lies in mobility-friendly networks in which cars are just one element – and an ever-shrinking one as we move from a system in which the personally owned vehicle is king and toward a multimodal future of on-demand driverless vehicles, ride-sharing, expanded public transit, greater reliance on human-powered transportation and other alternatives.”

Like us, he’s watching intently as our friends at PennDOT and Carnegie Mellon University, along with others across the country, push forward with autonomous vehicle technology. And he’s right – it will transform mobility and our cities as significantly as the personal automobile and the Interstate Highway System did in the last century.

As with any transformative change, there will be some resistance to it and challenges to overcome, but it’s becoming clearer by the day that a change is surely coming.

To read the entire Governing article, click here.

 

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Driverless technology advances in Pennsylvania

December 14, 2016

Autonomous self-driving driverless vehicle with radar on the roadWhile engineers and auto manufacturers continue to work on driverless technology, Pennsylvania is beginning work on the regulations that will guide this fledgling industry.

PennDOT assembled an Autonomous Vehicles Testing Policy Task Force to draft recommendations on the rules for driverless cars. The goal was to combine the state’s focus on innovation with the public’s need for safety.

Combining input from organizations including the Federal Highway Administration, AAA, Carnegie Mellon University, General Motors, Uber, the University of Pennsylvania, SAE and the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, the task force produced a report containing the following recommendations:

  • Testers of Highly Automated Vehicles (HAVs) must submit testing proposals to PennDOT and enter contracts attesting that the vehicles meet all federal and state safety standards and meet the policies adopted by PennDOT.
  • PennDOT must be notified prior to any HAV being used without an operator in fully self-driving mode.
  • PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission may temporarily restrict HAVs from certain routes. Otherwise, HAVs may be tested on any road in the state. Municipalities can also ask PennDOT to temporarily restrict HAVs on local routes.
  • Platooning, or electronically joining two or more vehicles controlled by a lead vehicle, also was addressed. Platooning of HAVs will be limited to two commercial or three passenger vehicles. PennDOT can approve additional vehicles in platoons after seeing a safety demonstration.
  • The HAVs must be able to record data that can be used to investigate crashes involving the HAVs. PennDOT will have access to the data.
  • Testers must certify that cybersecurity protections are in place for the HAVs.
  • PennDOT will collect data on total HAV miles traveled, total hours of operation, and size of HAV fleets. PennDOT may also ask for other information such as counties where HAVs are being tested and percentage of testing done on limited access highways.

“The prospect of driverless cars on our highways is an exciting prospect, but one that should be approached with the utmost focus on safety,” PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner said. “The report produced by this task force is a positive step toward reasonable regulation.”

 

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‘Free’ police coverage has a high price tag

May 5, 2016

In the last few weeks, editorials and op-ed articles have appeared in newspapers around the state in reaction to the Associated Press story about “free” state police coverage.

pspThe AP noted that nearly half of Pennsylvania’s municipalities rely on the State Police for all of their police protection, and others for at least some coverage. Municipalities are able take advantage of this coverage at no additional cost.

This has increased the cost of operation for the State Police, without any additional revenue to pay for it. Residents of communities that have local police forces or participate in regional police coverage pay twice – for their local coverage, and for State Police coverage in municipalities that rely on State Police.

Gerald Cross, executive director of the Pennsylvania Economy League Central Division, commented about this problem with an op-ed article published in several newspapers. You can read the entire article here.

“Mandating that all 2,561 municipalities have their own police departments is unrealistic. One alternative is to require payment for state police services,” Cross wrote. “A more comprehensive and long-term, albeit more complicated, option is to create a mechanism for local government tax-base sharing to deliver all types of critical services more effectively on a regional level. One thing is clear: A wide-ranging discussion of how local governments in Pennsylvania provide services is long overdue.”

The growing cost leads the General Assembly and administration to divert increasing resources from the Motor License Fund.  More than $800 million is proposed to be shifted from the Motor License Fund to pay for the State Police in the 2016-17 fiscal year budget. This means that fewer transportation improvement projects will be funded.

“The growing cost to the State Police for providing local police coverage should not come at the expense of transportation improvement projects,” PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner said. “Act 89 was a huge step forward in improving our roads and bridges, but it cannot work as well as it should if increasing transportation dollars continue to be used for ‘free’ State Police coverage.”