PHIA’s 2018 wish list

January 11, 2018

Happy New Year to one and all, and we hope you had a terrific holiday season. As we begin a new year, we thought we’d share our 2018 wish list. Here we go:

  • One of PHIA’s most important points of emphasis is public safety, not just for highway workers but for the traveling public. According to the Federal Highway Administration, 85 percent of the fatalities in highway work zones involve drivers and passengers, not highway workers. Because Maryland’s automated speed enforcement program has worked so well, reducing excessive speeding from 7 percent to less than one percent of drivers, we implore Pennsylvania’s policymakers to push for a consensus on the automated speed enforcement measure that has gone back and fourth in the General Assembly. Putting such a program into place before the beginning of the next construction season could save lives.
  • We join our fellow transportation advocates under the banner of the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition in supporting a rollback of the money that has been diverted from the Motor License Fund to support State Police operations. The Legislative Budget & Finance Committee says the Commonwealth has been diverting nearly $300 million more than is justified under the State Constitution, depriving Pennsylvanians of the transportation improvements they were promised preceding the passage of Act 89 of 2013. Let’s keep the transportation revenue where it belongs.
  • Along those same lines, there are other dedicated funds, most notably the Public Transportation Trust Fund and the Multimodal Transportation Fund, that are essential for building and maintaining a fully integrated transportation system that includes all modes of transportation. Again, let’s keep the transportation revenue where it belongs.
  • Another important issue is to see that drivers of hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles pay their fair share for the wear and tear they cause on our transportation assets. We can no longer place the responsibility solely on the backs of those who consume gasoline and diesel fuel.
  • Finally, for the longer term, we need to begin looking at alternatives to consumption taxes altogether and create a fee structure based on mileage. Charging drivers based on the fuel they consume does not allocate the maintenance responsibility as fairly as it should, and will become even less fair as we continue to move away from fossil fuels and toward alternatives.



Rafferty discusses transportation issues at PHIA event

December 12, 2017

Senate Transportation Chair John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) discussed a variety of transportation issues this week before a friendly crowd at PHIA’s final policy breakfast of the year.

Among Senator Rafferty’s points:

  • Act 89 has increased PennDOT’s bridge and highway budget to $2.4 billion per year from $1.5 billion before passage in 2013, but keeping transportation dollars for their intended purpose has been a challenge.
  • One of the ways to keep transportation dollars where they belong is to reduce reliance on the Motor License Fund to support State Police and find a way to replace that money in the State Police budget.
  • The project near and dear to his heart is a $100 million six-lane bridge on 422 over the Schuylkill in Valley Forge that will relieve congestion and spur development in much of the Philadelphia region. Replacement of the two-lane span is expected to be completed in spring of 2020.
  • He would also like to see an earlier end to the Act 44 Turnpike subsidies to non-Turnpike transportation needs than the current 2022 expiration date.
  • PA needs to strengthen DUI laws to discourage drunken driving and encourage people with drinking problems to get help.
  • The General Assembly still needs to reach consensus on automated speed enforcement in work zones. He believes that if the House adopted the Senate version of the legislation, the governor would quickly sign the bill.
  • Bipartisan efforts are putting Pennsylvania in position to maintain a leadership role in the development of autonomous vehicles.

Look for the next PHIA breakfast in the first quarter of next year.



PennDOT lets $198 million in November

November 29, 2017

PennDOT let just over $198 million projects during the month of November according to numbers compiled by the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC).  With this letting, PennDOT has let just over $2 billion in project lettings to date.  At this same point last year, PennDOT bid a total of $2.346 billion in projects.  The official 2016 year-end total was $2.594 billion just shy of PennDOT’s $2.6 billion forecast. PennDOT anticipates a $2.4 billion letting program by year’s end.

As in year’s past, PHIA will continue to track contract lettings on a monthly basis.

To view the full November letting report and year comparisons, click the link below.

November Letting Report* (PDF)


*The report lists the total contracts awarded at each letting date, a comparison to the same period in the previous calendar year, and letting adjustments made since the previous month. PHIA staff will track PennDOT lettings throughout the year and provide monthly update.


GOP tax bills also involve infrastructure

November 28, 2017

The always insightful Governing Magazine had an article this week observing that the Republican-sponsored tax bills before Congress are also infrastructure bills because they contain provisions that would impact the ability of states and localities to pay for public works improvements.

In addition to changing the way that highways are financed, the proposed plans include revisions to financing ports and airports, along with state programs related to electric vehicles and wind energy.

At the same time, some infrastructure advocates are disappointed that these provisions are part of a tax bill rather than a standalone infrastructure measure. They believe having separate measures, but considered together, would give a greater boost to improving the country’s infrastructure.

“From a PHIA perspective, we care less about how it’s done,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “We believe very strongly that the federal government needs to step up, both in terms of setting policy and in providing some funding to the states.”

To read the entire Governing article, click here.



Wolf rejects diverting more transportation funds

November 10, 2017

Transportation advocates appear to have received great news this week as a spokesman for Governor Wolf said the governor does not intend to tap into transportation money to close a $300 million budget gap.

In recognition of a legislative study concluding that the state had been diverting $222 million more than it should from the Motor License Fund to support State Police operations, the governor and General Assembly had trimmed last year’s $802 million diversion by about $23 million and apparently will continue to scale the diverted amount back.

However, House Republicans then suggested diverting some $400 million from the Multimodal Transportation and Public Transportation Trust funds to plug the budget gap, later reducing that to $100 million before stripping out specific sources and leaving it up to the governor’s discretion.

The governor’s spokesman, J.J. Abbott, said the following to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via email:

“Gov. Wolf will not raid any funds related to public transit as proposed by the House Republicans. Governor Wolf understands that public transit and other infrastructure are vital parts of Pennsylvania’s economy and he’s committed to continuing to invest more — not less — in these programs.”