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Biden plan would address transportation needs

April 9, 2021

President Biden’s recent appearance in Pittsburgh, in which he unveiled what he called the American Jobs Plan, has drawn considerable discussion across the nation. While some aspects of it have drawn criticism, many people have embraced the transportation infrastructure portions.

While details have yet to be determined, the general concepts seem sound. They include:

  • Modernizing 20,000 miles of highways, roads and streets.
  • Fixing the 10 most economically significant bridges in the country in need of reconstruction.
  • Repairing the worst 10,000 smaller bridges, providing critical linkages to communities.
  • Replacing thousands of buses and rail cars, repairing hundreds of stations, renewing airports and expanding public transportation and rail into new communities.

“Nobody expects that the president’s plan will turn out to be exactly as he proposed it, but the transportation portions of it would create tens of thousands of jobs and address the critical needs to restore the infrastructure,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “We’ll see if Congress and the president can finally come to a consensus on transportation funding.”

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Governor calls for fuel tax phase-out, creates funding commission

March 19, 2021

Last week, Governor Wolf announced he wants to phase out the Commonwealth’s liquid fuel taxes, and he created the Transportation Revenue Options Commission to explore alternatives to that revenue source.

APC’s Bob Latham was named to the commission, along with other stakeholders, including several others from the construction industry.

The governor noted what we have noted in this space many times – that a national energy policy that encourages reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions, coupled with automakers determined to move the market toward cleaner energy, are making the consumption taxes increasingly less reliable as a funding source for transportation infrastructure.

The coronavirus pandemic has also had a stifling effect on transportation revenue, affecting public transportation, the Turnpike, and other transportation modes as well as highway builders. It appears that the negative impact of the pandemic will be with us for some time.

The governor’s new commission will meet next week and is tasked with submitting funding options by Aug. 1. It will be chaired by PennDOT Secretary Yasmin Gramian. In addition to industry representatives, members will include economic, and community stakeholders from both the public and private sectors, including majority and minority leaders from the House and Senate Transportation and Appropriations committees.

The commission appears to have some similarities to the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission, which helped bring us Act 89 of 2013. For more details about the commission, including a listing of members, click here.

 

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Former PHIA, TRIP executive has passed away

March 9, 2021

With sadness, we report that former PHIA Managing Director Don Knight has passed away at the age of 96.

A native of Weymouth, MA, Don joined the Marines following high school and served in the South Pacific at the height of World War II. He returned to Massachusetts and earned a journalism degree from Boston University.

He wrote for several newspapers in Pennsylvania and Virginia before pivoting to the nonprofit world, which included PHIA. He left PHIA in 1968 to become the first executive director for TRIP, the national transportation research organization headquartered in Washington. He retired in 1985.

A life-long Red Sox fan and avid tennis player, he was revered by those with whom he worked. We offer our sincere condolences to his wife, Phyllis, and all whose lives Don touched.

 

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Biden pitches infrastructure plans in meeting with labor reps

February 19, 2021

While President Biden’s coronavirus relief plan is getting most of the public policy attention lately, his meeting this week with labor leaders also had infrastructure on the agenda.

“We rank something like 38th in the world in terms of our infrastructure – everything from canals to highways to airports,” Biden was quoted as saying, noting that it underscores the need to increase U.S. competitiveness in that area.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more than 230 trade groups on Wednesday urged Congress to enact comprehensive infrastructure legislation by July 4.

“Given the economic and unemployment conditions, and the bipartisan support that infrastructure enjoys in Congress, it appears that things could finally be lining up for a comprehensive infrastructure program,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “It would give a significant boost to the economy, in both the short and long term.”

We hope to have frequent updates as the initiative advances, and we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for the July 4 launch date.

 

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Senate Transportation Committee hears details on P-3 plan

February 3, 2021

The Senate Transportation Committee held a hearing last week on PennDOT’s plan to boost transportation construction revenue by entering into Public-Private Partnerships with firms that would upgrade or replace select Interstate bridges and toll them.

PennDOT says it plans to select up to 10 bridges in geographically dispersed regions of the Commonwealth. Officials said they plan to identify the selected bridges next month.

Representatives of the PA Motor Truck Association said they are strongly opposed to tolling existing infrastructure. They explained that they are not able to recover tolling charges from their freight customers, and that the plan would have a detrimental impact on their industry.

Two Republican senators have introduced a resolution that would block the P-3 plan. The hearing was the first for Sen. Wayne Langerholc since he was named majority committee chair. He indicated there could be additional hearings on the issue.