Among the solutions for improving highways is one that requires relatively little investment and no new construction. PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch, appearing on Pennsylvania Newsmakers this week, outlined the department’s “Green Light Go” program and joined Associated Pennsylvania Constructors’ Bob Latham to provide a progress report on Act 89, the transportation funding measure that passed nearly one year ago.
“There’s no better low-cost improvement to reduce congestion and improve safety than to upgrade traffic signals,” the secretary said. To view the entire segment, click here.
PennDOT’s continuing effort to highlight the benefits of Act 89, the transportation funding bill, received a boost from Gov. Tom Corbett this week in a high-profile news event in Pittsburgh.
With the Birmingham Bridge serving as a backdrop, the governor made the point that the funding bill will benefit people in every corner of Pennsylvania. The Birmingham Bridge itself will undergo $28.5 million in repairs after an incident in 2008 that closed the bridge for a month when the bridge deck dropped due to deterioration.
Funding from Act 89 accelerated the timetable to repair the bridge. The act will raise $2.3 billion per year in additional transportation revenue by 2018, supporting tens of thousands of jobs.
So far, PennDOT has started work on more than 200 Act 89-funded projects covering more than 1,600 miles of roads and 83 bridges. Overall, more than 900 projects are expected to get underway this year, both from Act 89 and prior funding streams.
To view the entire news release, click here.
The State Transportation Commission today updated Pennsylvania’s 12-Year Transportation Program with a 50 percent boost in transportation spending directly attributable to passage of Act 89 last fall.
The new plan anticipates $63.2 billion being available over the next 12 years for improvements to roads, bridges, transit systems, airports and railroads, compared with $41.6 billion in the last update two years ago.
“Today’s action represents a significant step forward to addressing all transportation modes,” Governor Corbett said in announcing the action. “Act 89 provides a solution to a decades old problem, and the legislature and I showed that unlike Washington, we are able to put partisan politics aside and do what’s right for Pennsylvania.”
The program, which takes effect Oct. 1, anticipates $12.3 billion being available for highway and bridge projects in the first four years. Public transit is in line for $7.9 billion; aviation, $370 million; the state’s rail-freight systems $228 million; and the newly created multimodal fund will receive $284 million in the first four years.
State law requires the commission to review and update the 12-Year Program every two years. No capital project can move forward unless it is included in the 12-Year Program.
Some of the key projects funded by Act 89 and included in the updated 12-Year Program are:
- Continuation of the four-lane US 322 from the top of Seven Mountains to west of Potters Mills in Centre County.
- Construction of the long-awaited expansion of the Conchester (U.S. 322) Highway between Route 1 and Interstate 95 in Delaware County.
- The initial steps to lay the groundwork for the Interstate 83 master plan expansion through Harrisburg.
- The initial steps leading to the widening of U.S. 22 in the Lehigh Valley.
- Start of design work for the 13-mile long Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway in Snyder, Union and Northumberland counties.
More information about the 12-Year Program Update is available by clicking HERE.
We’re disappointed to see any transportation funding initiative go down to defeat, but reasons behind the 59-41 percent thrashing this week of a Missouri ballot initiative that would have raised the state sales tax by three-quarters of a cent stands in contrast to Pennsylvania’s successful effort with Act 89 last year.
The Missouri proposal would have raised $480 million annually for the state and $54 million annually for local governments for as long as 10 years. The measure guaranteed that the state gasoline tax would not increase during the time the sales tax boost was in effect.
Although drafted to assure that the revenue could not be diverted for non-transportation use, the measure drew heavy criticism for its failure to balance the cost burden proportionately among various highway users. In fact, the group perceived as having greatest responsibility for wear and tear on Missouri highways – out-of-state trucking companies – would have been let off the hook almost entirely as Missouri residents would have borne the burden. Read more
Although the General Election still awaits, there is no sign that enactment of a transportation funding measure last year is having an impact on this year’s legislative campaign. PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner provides an update.
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
Now into the second half of 2014, Act 89 continues to push construction lettings to significantly higher levels compared to last year. PennDOT had another strong month in July with over $330 million in projects being put out on the street. This brings the year-to-date total to over $1.7 billion. At this same point in 2013, PennDOT only bid $936.6 million in lettings. At this pace, PennDOT would end 2014 with an estimated $2.2 billion in lettings.
With the recent enactment of the transportation funding bill there is reason to see this trend continue. Act 89, which will implement a $2.3 billion comprehensive transportation funding plan over the next five years, will result in PennDOT exceeding $2 billion in construction lettings in 2014. PennDOT finished 2013 with $1.6 billion in lettings.
As in year’s past, PHIA will continue to track contract lettings on a monthly basis.
To view the full July 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.
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