News

Supreme Court rejects truckers’ Turnpike tolls appeal

January 29, 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal by an independent truck owner group that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission shouldn’t be allowed to collect tolls for non-turnpike costs.

The association claimed the turnpike overcharged for tolls because it has been required to give $450 million a year to the state Department of Transportation to help pay for public transportation services.  The truckers contended the payments were illegal.

In declining to hear the case, the court upheld lower federal court decisions. The payments will be reduced to $50 million annually beginning in 2023, and lawmakers are considering alternative funding sources for transit agencies.

You can read a news account of the court’s decision at this link.

 

News

Rep. White briefs stakeholders on transportation revenue recommendations

January 16, 2020

Last month, we reported on the results of a study of transportation funding options by a 10-member task force made up of members of the House Republican Caucus. This week, its chair, state Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia), briefed the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition on the recommendations.

The recommendations included numerous options for addressing transportation funding needs, such as:

  • Lessening or halting revenue diversions from the Motor License Fund, the constitutionally protected repository for fuel taxes and license and registration fees.
  • Expanding public-private partnership opportunities.
  • Streamlining permitting processes.
  • Changing the way large highway projects are bid out.
  • Giving local governments the ability to impose additional fees.
  • Creating county infrastructure banks.

Representative White filled in some details and provided insight into the task force’s deliberations. PHIA and other transportation stakeholders are hopeful that the General Assembly and governor will agree to accelerate the rollback of the revenue that is being diverted from the Motor License Fund. Rolling back the entire diverted amount to zero would make more than $700 million available for bridge and highway projects without raising fuel taxes and license and registration fees.

 

Events, PHIA Programs & Awards

PHIA Takes Nominations for Annual Road & Bridge Safety Awards

December 30, 2019

Each year the Pennsylvania Highway Information Association (PHIA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) team with various state organizations to recognize the best road safety or bridge improvement projects undertaken across the state.  Go HERE for complete information.

Eligible projects are those in which most or all of the safety improvements were completed in 2019.  The competition recognizes not only major, high-cost projects, but any improvements that have increased public safety.

 

Featured

Safety, funding measures top 2019 highway issues

December 19, 2019

In our final edition of E-motion for 2019, we reflect on the public policy highlights of this year.

At the top of the list was the enactment of the automated speed enforcement measure. The pilot program began in the fall with a “pre-enforcement testing period.” Beginning next month, motorists who drive through work zones at more than 10 mph over the speed limit will begin receiving citations after a first-offense warning. The initial fine will be $75, increasing to $150 for subsequent violations.

Automated speed enforcement tops the list because, as much as we talk about highway funding, work zone safety is and always has been the construction industry’s highest priority. Data show that Maryland’s program, which has been in place for several years, has reduced excessive speeding to less than 1 percent of drivers after beginning at 7 percent.

There also were positive developments on the funding front. As diversions from the Motor License Fund continue to be rolled back by 4 percent a year, legislation in the Senate would accelerate the rollback, making more money available for highway work. A House Republican task force also recommended accelerating the rollback, so it appears that the idea has a good chance of advancing in the second half of the current legislative session.

Additionally, the House task force recommended expanding public-private partnership opportunities, streamlining permitting processes, changing the way large highway projects are bid out, giving local governments the ability to impose additional fees and creating county infrastructure banks. We expect that those recommendations will be transformed into legislation early next year.

As we bid farewell to 2019, we leave you with best wishes for the holidays and hope you have a prosperous and healthy New Year. We’ll keep you posted as we turn the page to 2020.

 

Featured

Task force unveils transportation funding proposals

December 4, 2019

A PA House Republican task force whose mission was to address transportation funding needs has finished its assignment and presented its report.

The task force, chaired by Rep. Martina White of Philadelphia, made several recommendations, beginning with lessening or halting revenue diversions from the Motor License Fund, the constitutionally protected repository for fuel taxes and license and registration fees.

As we have noted many times, $9 billion has been diverted from that fund since 2002. Nearly half of that diversion has occurred since 2012-13, including more than $700 million in this fiscal year.

Pennsylvania’s tax rate is approximately 58 cents per gallon – now second-highest in the country – and more than a quarter of that is diverted for things other than highway construction. The task force recommended that the planned rollback of diversions be accelerated from the current 4 percent annually to 8 percent.

The task force also recommended expanding public-private partnership opportunities, streamlining permitting processes, changing the way large highway projects are bid out, giving local governments the ability to impose additional fees and creating county infrastructure banks.

While the task force’s recommendations could help in the short term – say, three to five years – we have yet to establish a long-term vision for how the ideal a transportation infrastructure could evolve beyond that.

For transportation advocates, the 43-page report is worth a read. You’ll find it at this link.