PHIA News Digest – Vol. 49

November 9, 2015

PDSITELOGO2House approves highway & transit bill
The House of Representatives last week approved legislation that would reauthorize the federal highway and public transportation programs through FY 2021.  While support for the measure was overwhelming and bipartisan, opposition came largely from the extremely conservative wing of the House Republican caucus.  Perhaps most importantly, the House included a Highway Trust Fund (HTF)-related amendment that has the potential to change the dynamics of the reauthorization process as it moves forward.

The package is a combination of the surface transportation reauthorization and policy reform bill approved by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee in October and the three-year HTF revenue plan approved by the Senate in July.  The intent of this commingling was to produce legislation that—like its Senate counterpart—would authorize highway and transit investment levels for six years, but only generate enough new HTF resources to fund the first three years of those authorizations.  While the House bill provides essentially status quo investment levels adjusted annually for inflation, the Senate bill would lead to modest program growth beyond the maintenance of purchasing power.

House blocks vote on increasing federal gas tax
Earlier, the House has blocked a vote on an amendment to the $325 billion highway bill that is being considered this week that would have increased the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax by 15 cents. The amendment, from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), would have nearly doubled the fuel tax that is paid by motorists to help pay for federal transportation projects. The proposal was blocked from proceeding to a vote on the House floor by the Republican-led House Rules Committee on Tuesday night.

Highway bill first test for Speaker Ryan
One of Paul Ryan’s first tests as speaker of the House will be passing a long-term transportation funding bill for the first time in a decade. Congress has not passed a transportation bill that last longer than two years since 2005, and lawmakers are now facing a Nov. 20 for the expiration of the federal government’s current round of infrastructure funding. Ryan (R-Wis.) had identified the highway bill as a top priority before he took the House gavel, but the rubber is meeting the road now that he is official the lower chamber’s leader.

‘Free’ State Police coverage comes at a price
I commend the Daily Record and reporter Dylan Segelbaum for an excellently written and well researched article on communities that are considering abandoning their municipal or regional police forces, opting instead for “free” police coverage from the Pennsylvania State Police (“Glen Rock, like other places in York County, balances rising police costs with tight budget,” Oct. 15). Of course, we all recognize that nothing is “free,” so who exactly pays for “free” state police coverage? If you own or drive a car or truck or have a drivers’ license, you do.

PA Turnpike officials say $33 million in tolls uncollected
Pennsylvania Turnpike officials say their inability to sufficiently punish toll violators helped contribute to more than $33 million in outstanding and uncollected tolls. At locations where there are no people to accept tolls and there are no gates, many people choose to go through E-ZPass lanes and skip the toll. There are 1.5 million violators across the state each year, KDKA-TV reported Monday.

PennDOT accepting applications for TAP program
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is accepting applications for the federally funded Transportation Alternatives Program through Jan. 8, 2016. Transportation alternative projects enhance pedestrian and bicycle facilities, improve access to public transportation, create safe routes to school, preserve historic transportation structures, provide environmental mitigation, create trails that serve a transportation purpose, and promote safety and mobility, according to PennDOT.


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