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.”



Transportation Committee chairs announced

January 10, 2019

State House and Senate leaders have announced who will chair the transportation committees for the new two-year legislative session.

In the House, Reps. Tim Hennessey and Mike Carroll are the Republican and Democratic chairs, respectively.











In the Senate, Sens. Kim Ward and John Sabatina are the Republican and Democratic chairs, respectively.










Other committee members are to be named in the coming weeks.



PennDOT Ends 2018 with $2.5 billion in Contract Lettings

January 9, 2019

PennDOT finished the 2018 calendar year with over $176 million in project lettings in December according to numbers compiled by the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC).  As a result, PennDOT, finished the year with just over $2.519 billion in project lettings.  At the end of 2017, PennDOT bid a total of $2.578 billion in projects.  PennDOT forecasted the 2018 letting program to be $2.5 billion but they anticipate a drop to $2.2 billion for 2019.

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

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

December 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.


Coalition to develop regional transportation carbon-reduction policy

December 21, 2018

Pennsylvania is among a coalition of nine states and the District of Columbia that will participate in developing a regional low-carbon transportation policy proposal to cap and reduce carbon emissions from transportation fuels.

Called the Transportation & Climate Initiative, its goals are to develop a cleaner transportation system that reduces congestion, promotes walking and bicycling, encourages greater use of public transportation, improves air quality and helps communities become more resilient to extreme weather events.

According to TCI, emissions from transportation account for the largest portion of the region’s carbon pollution, and a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that ambitious reductions are needed within the next decade to avoid dangerous impacts to public health, infrastructure and the environment.

The resulting “cap-and-trade” system could look much like the one in California, which began including transportation in its emission reduction program in 2015. That state’s fuel wholesalers are required to purchase emission permits, and the cost is rolled into fuel prices at the pump. The market encourages lower consumption as prices rise. Read more


Wolf administration begins search for public transit solution

December 4, 2018

Faced with the expiration of a $400 million subsidy from the Turnpike for public transportation, the Wolf administration is beginning to set the stage for replacing that revenue.

PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards, at the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors Fall Conference last month, outlined the Commonwealth’s transportation funding needs, asserting that the $3.5 billion annual funding gap calculated in 2010 will have more than doubled by 2020 unless policymakers act. She said public transportation funding is the Commonwealth’s most pressing transportation need.

Then, last week, Governor Wolf said he supports changing the transportation funding method to relieve the burden on the Turnpike.

The combination of two legislative measures – one in 2007 and the other in 2013 – provided for a $450 million subsidy to public transportation and resulted in toll increases every year. The Turnpike has greatly increased its debt.

“I think there’s bipartisan support for actually taking a look at that, because I think we all recognize that’s unsustainable,” the governor said. “People using the turnpike are paying too much. The turnpike really is driving business away.”

Under the funding arrangement, $400 million of the subsidy will disappear by 2023 at the latest.  A lawsuit filed by an independent truckers’ organization could hasten the subsidy’s demise.

“Nobody has come up with a specific solution yet, and it won’t be easy,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “It’s encouraging to see the administration launch the process.”