Associated Pennsylvania Constructors: Improving efficiency won’t cover transportation funding gap

June 25, 2010

The following is a press release issued by PHIA board member Robert Latham.  Latham also is the Executive Vice President of the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC).

HARRISBURG (June 24, 2010) – Making certain that government spends resources wisely and efficiently should always be a top priority, but the $3.5 billion annual gap between transportation needs and resources cannot be solved by cost savings alone, construction industry representatives say.

Robert Latham, executive vice president of Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, told the Senate Transportation Committee that the industry works continuously with PennDOT to improve quality assurance practices and to shorten the time required to design and build highway projects.

He also addressed the issue surrounding Pennsylvania’s prevailing-wage law, which requires that builders of public works projects pay employees no less than local prevailing wages. Some claim that repealing the state’s prevailing wage law would have a significant impact on lowering the transportation funding gap.

While neither supporting nor opposing prevailing wage laws, Latham, joined by James Van Buren of New Enterprise Stone & Lime, estimated that repealing the law would rectify between 1 and 2 percent of the annual spending gap. The industry encouraged senators to discuss and debate all avenues of cost savings along with additional ways to raise revenue.

“The way in which Pennsylvania pushed highway construction bids out with the federal stimulus initiative showed that PennDOT is among the most efficient departments of transportation in the country,” Latham said.

“Our point, though, is that the size of the annual funding gap, which nearly everyone agrees is around $3.5 billion, is far too large to be ‘fixed’ by improving government efficiency. Pennsylvania residents and businesses who rely on an efficient highway system – must face the fact that our transportation infrastructure needs considerably more of our resources in order to improve safety, relieve congestion and stimulate the economy, in both the near term and long term.”

In fact, Latham noted, an economic study by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association concluded that the type of transportation program envisioned by the industry and the State Transportation Commission would create more than 50,000 new jobs in Pennsylvania, reducing the state’s unemployment by nearly 10 percent. Nearly 60 percent of those jobs would be in sectors other than highway construction, he said.

Latham said Pennsylvania’s transportation system has been underfunded for decades, and its condition now ranks as one of the worst in the country.

“The time to address this problem is now,” Latham said. “There is growing awareness on the part of political leaders and the public that this must be addressed, and there is growing acceptance that investing in infrastructure will provide economic benefits and improve the quality of life.”


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