News

TAC report paints glum picture of transportation funding

March 7, 2019

Most readers of this publication and George Wolff’s Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition newsletter are aware of the transportation funding issues facing the Commonwealth.

Those issues include the lack of progress in achieving a federal highway funding solution, a lawsuit challenging the appropriateness of the Turnpike Commission’s subsidies to public transportation, the diversion of revenue from the Motor License Fund, and the declining revenue generated from fuel taxes and license and registration fees.

A recent report from the state’s Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) on transportation funding risks corroborates the challenges facing political leaders and policymakers, beginning as early as Pennsylvania’s new fiscal year on July 1.

The Turnpike has been unable to make the last three quarterly installments on the $450 million annual payment required by Act 44 of 2007. The matter is pending in federal court, and the uncertainty prevents the turnpike from securing the required bonds. Read more

News

Paying for police coverage is again an issue

February 14, 2019

In his annual budget address this week, Gov. Tom Wolf has once again proposed that the Commonwealth charge a fee to Pennsylvanians who rely on State Police coverage in their communities rather than a local or regional police force.

The argument supporting such a fee is that this “free” State Police coverage is subsidized by the roughly three-quarters of Pennsylvanians who also pay for their own local police coverage. Those who opt to disband their local police forces or never had one in the first place generally pay significantly lower local property taxes.

Whether this proposal stands a better chance of adoption this year after failing to gain traction in previous budgets remains to be seen, but few policymakers articulate the reasoning better than state Rep. Mike Sturla of Lancaster, who chairs the House Democratic Policy Committee. To read a Q&A interview featuring Sturla and PennLive reporter Wallace McKelvey, click here.

 

News

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 5

January 28, 2019

Road salt use creates environmental worries

Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation still relies on a steady diet of salt to de-ice state roads and highways. But in some other states, including neighboring New Jersey, products like beet juice and cheese brine are being used to keep drivers safe and roads away from salt.

PennDOT Connects program aims to improve transportation planning

PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards announced that project-planning collaboration and outreach with more than 750 municipalities is complete on more than 1,850 projects through the department’s PennDOT Connects transportation planning process.

King of Prussia rail project reaches two milestones

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Board has approved a contract to advance further engineering of the KOP Rail extension of the Norristown High Speed Line.

State troopers issue nearly 1,000 citations for driving during snow storm

Pennsylvania State Police issued nearly 1,000 citations to commercial drivers who were stopped on Pennsylvania highways during this weekend’s storms.

OPINION | The bus system of the future

Indianapolis is rethinking its approach, seeking new efficiencies that will better serve those from disadvantaged communities.

 

News

Heads-up. Autonomous vehicles are about to get real

January 28, 2019

It appears that the first incarnation of autonomous vehicles could arrive as soon as this spring. An article in Pittsburgh’s The Incline notes that platooning of tractor-trailers, buses and military vehicles could beat all other autonomous applications to the punch.

In October, Pennsylvania passed legislation that would allow up to three of those aforementioned vehicles to connect wirelessly and hit the road, with only one driver controlling the platoon. PennDOT is hashing out processes and protocols to support the practice, including where, when and how platoons will operate.

Platooning vehicles will be safer, save fuel and take up less highway space, according to a Carnegie Mellon University professor/AV expert. And with nationwide concerns about commercial driver shortages, it becomes clear why there is interest in platooning as a solution.

“Having closely followed the development of AV technology, and recognizing the benefits of improved safety and fuel efficiency, many of us at PHIA are supportive and excited to see the platooning efforts advance,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “In some ways, this technology will have the same level of life-changing impacts as computers, digital communication and smart phones.”

To read the entire article, click here.

 

News

Capital Beltway tabbed for major improvements

January 10, 2019

Those who commute on Harrisburg’s Capital Beltway received good news as we rang in the new year, with PennDOT announcing a couple of big-ticket projects involving Interstates 83 and 81 and Route 581.

Plans call for widening I-83 to 12 lanes – six in each direction – between Paxton and Second streets. A new interchange would be built at Cameron Street, and the 13th and Paxton street interchanges would be eliminated.

PennDOT said the goals are to relieve congestion and improve safety.  Officials estimate the cost at $700 million, and the work would be done between 2022 and 2030, although preliminary engineering has already begun.

The I-81 work would turn most of the 89-mile stretch between the Maryland line and I-78 into a six-lane highway. The traffic volume along the I-81 corridor is significantly greater than what it was designed to handle, and it is projected to continue to increase.

“The I-83 project is farther along than the I-81 project,” noted PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner, “and it’s not clear yet where the money for I-81 will come from and when.  PennDOT said it’s hoping for federal funding, but policymakers in Washington still haven’t addressed funding needs.”