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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.

 

News

Cost for full-time State Police coverage tabbed at $600 million annually

March 16, 2017

STATEPOLICE (002)As the Wolf administration and lawmakers grapple with the State Police funding issue, data are beginning to illuminate the discussion.

First, we know that about half of Pennsylvania’s 2,562 municipalities do not have local or regional police coverage, relying instead on the State Police. Another 400-plus municipalities have part-time local police coverage and rely on State Police the rest of the time.

Last week, State Police Commissioner Tyree Blocker told a Senate budget panel that it costs $600 million per year for his agency to provide full-time coverage to the nearly 1,300 municipalities that need it. Those municipalities are home to about 2.5 million Pennsylvanians.

Governor Wolf has proposed charging a $25 per resident fee in municipalities that rely strictly on the State Police. That approach would raise $63 million per year, to be restored to the Motor License Fund and used for highway projects instead of State Police operations, reducing the Motor License Fund’s support to $739 million. Read more

News

PennDOT lets $294 million in February

March 7, 2017

NEW_PENNDOTPennDOT let just over $294 million projects during the month of February according to numbers compiled by the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC).  With this letting, PennDOT has begun the new year (2017) with just over $376 in project lettings.  At this same point last year, PennDOT bid a total of $467.3 million 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 February letting report and year comparisons, click the link below.

 

*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.

 

News

Northampton County bridge replacement program moves forward

February 17, 2017

P3altSeveral months ago, Northampton County officials said they intended to pursue a bundling approach to address the county’s significant bridge problem. This week, new details are emerging.

Kriger Construction will rebuild 33 bridges over the next three years for $37.5 million through a public-private partnership arrangement. The county will pay for the work over 10 years, during which Kriger will be responsible for maintenance of the bridges.

The county will not need to raise taxes (at least not because of the bridge project), and officials believe that by bundling the projects, the county will save between 20 and 30 percent per bridge compared with what it would have paid to rebuild them individually.

News accounts say that this is the first county-level P-3 in the country. The county needed to perform some legal gymnastics to make it work, since counties are not permitted to contract directly with the builder under Pennsylvania’s P-3 law.

If the project is successful, the county will proceed with the same approach for the remaining 66 bridges that need to be replaced.

“If it works like they believe it will, communities across the country will probably copy Northampton’s blueprint,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “It could serve as an example of how P-3s can help address infrastructure needs.”

 

News

Automated speed enforcement bill advances again in Senate

February 1, 2017

safezone_signBecause of PHIA’s focus on highway safety, it probably comes as no surprise that the organization supports automated speed enforcement in work zones using cameras. The Senate Transportation Committee considered such a measure last year but was not able to advance it to a floor vote in the waning days of the legislative session.

The committee once again advanced a very similar measure in its first week of the new session, and it is positioned again to move toward a vote of the full Senate and advance to the House.

The experience that Maryland has had after enacting a similar measure makes it very clear that automated enforcement works. Once Maryland drivers became aware that exceeding the work zone speed limit by at least 11 miles per hour could result in a ticket for the vehicle owner, violations dropped from seven cars per 100 to fewer than one per 100.

“There’s some disagreement among lawmakers as to whether the revenue from automated speeding fines should go toward highway use or be used to support the State Police,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “Neither PHIA nor the construction industry has a position on where the money should go. For us, the safety of people in work zones is the most important consideration.”

An article about the Senate bill can be found at this link. E-motion will provide updates on this measure as it advances.

 

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