Special session needs to focus on long-term solutions

May 13, 2010

PHIA’s Transportation Conference and Annual Meeting converged with the aftermath of the rejection of the Interstate 80 tolling proposal to create a lively event that was fitting for the organization’s 50th anniversary.

The event featured a discussion of funding options among three of the four chairs of the House and Senate transportation committees, and the event’s keynote speaker was Congressman Tim Holden, the ranking Pennsylvania member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

It also included a sneak peek at a nearly completed, Pennsylvania-specific economic study by Alison Premo Black, vice president for policy and managing director of the Research & Education Division of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.  Associated Pennsylvania Constructors commissioned ARTBA to quantify the economic impact of doubling Pennsylvania’s highway construction budget. 

Ms. Black said this 21st Century highway program would create more than 50,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, 58 percent of which would be in industries other than highway construction.  APC’s Bob Latham noted that the additional jobs would reduce Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate by 10 percent.

By the end of the week, there were signals that Governor Rendell may give wide latitude to the General Assembly as he kicks off a special legislative session on May 4 to address transportation funding needs.  There were reports that the governor could encourage lawmakers to explore a comprehensive solution rather than simply replace the revenue lost as a result of the rejection of the I-80 tolling proposal.

“The industry has made it clear that it’s not interested in another temporary solution,” said Managing Director Jason Wagner.  “It’s also clear that many other PHIA members and others with a vested interested in all modes of transportation will get behind a push for a long-term solution.

“The governor has been a national advocate for infrastructure funding, and we have an opportunity to achieve a lasting solution that could serve as a national model.  We need to start by discarding the stifling “conventional wisdom” about what is achievable and focus on Pennsylvania’s needs and the benefits of meeting those needs.”

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