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President-elect Donald Trump nominates Elaine Chao as secretary of transportation

November 30, 2016 by · Comments Off on President-elect Donald Trump nominates Elaine Chao as secretary of transportation
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819px-elaine_chao_large-819x675President-elect Donald Trump announced that Elaine Chao is his nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Transportation. Chao is the former secretary of labor under President George W. Bush.

Chao has had a long and successful career in Washington. She’s the first Asian-American woman to have held a cabinet-level position. Before becoming labor secretary, she served as a deputy secretary of transportation under President George H.W. Bush. Her work in transportation was primarily in maritime travel; Chao was the chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission.

In addition to her service in the federal government, Chao has been president and CEO of the United Way of America, director of the Peace Corps and a distinguished fellow with the conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation.

She is also the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).

“We are encouraged by Chao’s strong record in transportation and labor issues at the federal level,” PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner said. “The Trump administration has promised major investment in infrastructure, and the secretary of transportation will play a critical role in that work.”

 

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PennDOT Secretary Richards highlights need for more PennDOT funding

November 24, 2015 by · Comments Off on PennDOT Secretary Richards highlights need for more PennDOT funding
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STATEPOLICE (002)PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards held media availability recently to discuss PennDOT’s ongoing projects and needs. One of the more pressing needs she addressed was reliable federal funding.

“It helps us if we have a long-term bill and in the world of the federal government, six years is a long-term bill,” Secretary Richards said. “Of course it helps us if that long-term bill has predictable funding for all six years. It is really hard for us to plan if we don’t know that funding is predictable. That challenge of how much money we have and what needs to be done is something we deal with every day here at PennDOT.”

She also highlighted another issue that PHIA has been concerned about for some time: diverting money from Motor License Fund to help support State Police. The Motor License Fund is constitutionally protected fund for highway use.

“We are pleased that the Motor License Fund issue is on the secretary’s radar, and we look forward to working with the General Assembly to find a solution,” PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner said. “Highway patrol is a highway use, but two thirds of the State Police budget is coming from the Motor License Fund, and it certainly does not appear that the agency devotes two thirds of its resources for that purpose.”

 

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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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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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This just in

November 24, 2014 by · Comments Off on This just in
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60minutesIt won’t come as news to those who follow PHIA, but it’s worth noting that the deterioration of America’s transportation infrastructure has come to the attention of CBS’ 60 Minutes.

Correspondent Steve Croft selected Pittsburgh and its bridges as a backdrop in a segment that aired on Sunday. He also traveled to Philadelphia to interview former Gov. Ed Rendell on what could have been a disaster with an Interstate 95 bridge, were it not for the quest for a sausage sandwich.

“Although Pennsylvania has earned a reputation for having considerable transportation system problems, we’re now better off than nearly any other state following the passage of Act 89 a year ago,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “That doesn’t mean our problem is solved, and the 60 Minutes segment pointed out that the lack of consensus at the federal level continues.”

The segment, along with two additional segments on the issue that were not aired, may be viewed here.

 

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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