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Congress approves three-week highway funding extension

November 3, 2015 by · Comments Off on Congress approves three-week highway funding extension
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congress progressLast week, Congress acted to extend highway funding for an additional three weeks beyond the current deadline.

The bill authorizes federal transportation funding through November 20. President Obama has outspokenly opposed short-term funding for highways passed in lieu of long-term funding, but is expected to sign the bill. Members of Congress in both chambers have stated that the short-term funding provides more time to work on a long-term bill without defaulting on projects.

Over the summer, the Senate passed a six-year highway funding bill but only included three years of guaranteed funding. The House is currently working on its own version of a six-year bill that includes $325 billion in funding with three years of funding, but cuts off spending after three years if Congress does not establish a funding formula for the final three years. This measure is expected to see a floor vote in the next few weeks.

The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon and raises $34 billion annually, but the federal government spends $50 billion per year on transportation projects.

“Unpredictable funding from the federal government has plagued the highway community for several years,” PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner said. “Infrastructure improvement projects require consistent and reliable funding, and Congress has failed to provide that. Road improvements will slow if a long-term solution is not reached soon.”

 

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Nearly 200 highway users gather for PHIA’s annual meeting

October 8, 2015 by · Comments Off on Nearly 200 highway users gather for PHIA’s annual meeting
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Attendees were treated to seminars given by industry experts and transportation-focused elected officials including Turnpike Commission CEO Mark Compton, House Transportation Chairman Rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia), PennDOT P3 Director Michael Bonini, Senate Policy Chairman Senator David Argall, and many more.

Lou_Barletta,_Official_Portrait,_112th_Congress_(2)We got an update on the status of the Rapid Bridge Replacement Program that is currently underway to repair 558 structurally deficient bridges across the state, learned about legislation to improve work zone safety and hold reckless drivers accountable and Congressman Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne) explained the debate going on in Washington, D.C. about transportation funding.  Barletta announced that he plans to introduce legislation in Washington modeling Pennsylvania’s Act 89 law in order to push Congress into adoptions of a comprehensive, long-term funding bill for the nation.

Secretary-Richards2PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards also joined us for lunch to address the need for consistent, reliable funding to maintain our roads and bridges. She says there have been talks about new sources of recurring revenue, but also emphasized the need to protect existing funding for highways – the Motor License Fund. Read more

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House approves another short-term funding fix

May 22, 2015 by · Comments Off on House approves another short-term funding fix
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congress progressThis week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a short-term highway funding extension. The extension will be the 33rd short-term fix since 2008 and will authorize funding through July 31.

While short-term extensions have been accurately portrayed as Band-aids on bullet holes, the extra time gives Congress a chance to put together a more comprehensive solution for long-term funding. Many view this as a more pragmatic move than attempting to force an imperfect bill through Congress on a tight deadline. It also is viewed as better than a six-month extension, which would let the issue fester and possibly spill into an election year.

The Obama administration introduced a six-year funding proposal with a $478 billion price tag, but with Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress, most observers believe that is unlikely to be the vehicle for long-term highway funding. Read more

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Congress extends federal highway program until May 2015

August 1, 2014 by · Comments Off on Congress extends federal highway program until May 2015
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After much back and forth maneuvering between the U.S. Senate and House, Congress finally passed legislation stabilizing the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) until May 31, 2015.  The bill cleared the final stage in the U.S. Senate late last night by an 81 to 13 vote.  Both Pennsylvania Senators Casey and Toomey voted in favor of the final vote to extend the HTF.  The bill now heads to President Obama who indicated he would sign it into law. Read more

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U.S. House passes short-term funding bill

July 18, 2014 by · Comments Off on U.S. House passes short-term funding bill
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The U.S. House this week approved by a wide margin a short-term measure that would prop up the Federal Highway Trust Fund through next spring. That it was generally welcomed by the construction industry and transportation advocates speaks to the new level of expectation that the Congress has set for itself.

As reported in The Hill (click HERE to read), a widely-read inside-the-Beltway newspaper, “both chambers’ version of the transportation bill rely on so-called ‘pension smoothing’ — a proposal that budget experts across the ideological spectrum have dubbed a gimmick.”

Moreover, Congress has once again ignored the pleas of the business community, which is pushing for a long-term funding plan. The American Trucking Association and AAA have joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in this quest. Click HERE to read more. Read more

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Writer says U.S. derailed itself on infrastructure decades ago

March 27, 2014 by · Comments Off on Writer says U.S. derailed itself on infrastructure decades ago
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In a recently published Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed article, Robert W. Patterson emphasizes the importance of infrastructure in creating and preserving family-sustaining jobs.

Patterson, an aide to former President George W. Bush and Gov. Tom Corbett, provides historical context on how America strayed from its prosperous course of nation-building that made the U.S. a superpower.

In 1971, Congress voted to end funding for the next-generation commercial airliner, the Boeing 2707 SST, essentially ending a century-long streak of national infrastructure development. The decision was followed with additional legislative acts of the ‘70s, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, which blocked further infrastructure projects due to its heavy restrictions. Read more

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U.S. Highway Trust Fund could run out by July

March 26, 2014 by · Comments Off on U.S. Highway Trust Fund could run out by July
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The federal Highway Trust Fund could run out of money as early as July, according to a recently updated projection by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

On Oct. 1, the beginning of the current fiscal year, the highway portion of the trust fund had only $1.6 billion in it. It received $9.7 billion from the General Fund, bringing its total up to $10.4 billion, but the account has already been diminished by nearly $3.3 billion since then.

The mass transit portion of the trust fund began the fiscal year with $2.5 billion, and received a transfer from the General Fund which brought its balance up to $4.5 billion. The balance stands at around $3.2 billion, as of the last week of February.

The quickly diminishing funds could mean trouble for the states. The trust fund allocates about $1.6 billion annually to the state of Pennsylvania for road construction.  The sudden loss of federal funding would, in essence, undo the transportation funding act that passed last year. Read more

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Washington infrastructure event provides many questions, few answers

February 6, 2014 by · Comments Off on Washington infrastructure event provides many questions, few answers
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ShusterPortraitFinancial software, data and media company Bloomberg hosted an infrastructure event in Washington this week, and while the event provided a forum to frame the issue from multiple perspectives, it remains clear that Congress is far from a consensus on many aspects of a funding plan.

Pennsylvania Congressman Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, said he favors moving toward a vehicle miles-traveled (VMT) tax to fund a highway program. He is not in favor of raising the 18.4-cent federal gasoline tax, which hasn’t been increased since 1993.

Although a VMT approach would more accurately assess the costs for using transportation assets, others balk at the idea of tracking the number of miles that people travel in order to assess the levy.

Still others, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and former PA Gov. Ed Rendell, believe the gas tax should be raised immediately. Rendell called for raising it by 10 cents and indexing it to inflation. Read more

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Congressman Scott Perry to Keynote PHIA Conference

April 19, 2013 by · Comments Off on Congressman Scott Perry to Keynote PHIA Conference
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2013-01-23_fcm_0001United States Congressman Scott Perry (R-Cumberland) has accepted an invitation to be the Keynote Luncheon Speaker at the upcoming PA Highway Information Association Transportation Conference and Annual Meeting on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at the Hilton Harrisburg.  Perry is in his first term as a congressman and is a member of the prestigious House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Perry previously served in the Pennsylvania State House for 6 years and prior to his government service was the founder of a mechanical contracting firm, Hydrotech Mechanical Services, Inc.  Perry is a veteran of the PA Army National Guard where he served as Lieutenant Colonel and Commander of the 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion, which was deployed in Iraq from January 2009 to January 2010.  Perry was later promoted to the rank of Colonel and recently assumed garrison command of the Fort Indiantown Gap National Training Site.

Congressman Perry will provide insight as a freshman legislator in Washington and member of the House T&I Committee.

 

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Washington drops transportation funding ball again

March 27, 2012 by · Comments Off on Washington drops transportation funding ball again
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Events in Washington the last two weeks provide further evidence of the need for states to take transportation funding needs into their own hands.

Last week, Republicans in the U.S. House succeeded in killing a Senate-passed $109 billion, two-year measure that would have supported nearly 3 million jobs.  The Senate bill passed by a 74-22 vote with bipartisan sponsorship and support.

Instead, House Republicans introduced legislation to continue funding at its current level for 90 days.  If such a measure were approved, it would make the ninth extension since the most recent multi-year federal funding bill expired more than two years ago. Read more