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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.

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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.



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.


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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.



PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 46

November 24, 2020

PennDOT seeks public-private partnership to address major bridges

Through a public-private partnership, PennDOT replaced more than 550 small bridges across the state in just under three years. Now, PennDOT hopes to do the same to address major bridges statewide.

Hundreds of Pa. road projects to halt next week without PennDOT funding

About $600 million of road and bridge projects funded by PennDOT ― including many in the Lehigh Valley ― will stop Dec. 1 unless new sources of money can be found to keep them going.

Infrastructure improvements must be a priority

State Rep. Tim Hennessey, the chairman of the House Transportation committee, said the proposal to toll Pennsylvania bridges is still in the preliminary stages.

Facing an $8.1 billion gap in funding, PennDOT is looking to the public for opinions

PennDOT has drafted the PennDOT Pathways program to explore sustainable transportation options, but it needs public input about the plan. Information is accessible here and feedback will be accepted through December 17, 2020.

$11B budget package passes Pa. legislature

Democrats criticized the use of environmental program money to balance the budget, and warned that hundreds of transportation projects would stall, inflicting layoffs on construction crews.

PennDOT launches the I-70 Belle Vernon Bridge to Bentleyville reconstruction project

PennDOT District 12-0 is pleased to announce the beginning of preliminary design to modernize an eight-mile section of Interstate-70, between Bentleyville (Exit 32) and the Belle Vernon Bridge in Washington County.