News

Consider the problem identified

March 28, 2019

The chairpersons of the state House and Senate Transportation Committees, accompanied by members of the American Council of Engineering Companies of PA, became the latest entities to weigh in on the Commonwealth’s impending transportation funding crises last week.

In a Capitol Rotunda news conference, Republican Sen. Kim Ward, who chairs the Senate committee, said it is imperative that the state have a plan ready when the annual $450 million transfer from the Turnpike to PennDOT falls to only $50 million in three years. She said she has convened a legislative working group to evaluate options.

Of more immediate concern is that a lawsuit by independent truckers is already holding up those payments. If the truckers prevail, the payments will stop immediately.

Then, of course, there is the issue of diverting revenue from the constitutionally protected Motor License Fund. The fuel tax and license and registration fees that go into that fund are supposed to be restricted for highway use, but in recent years have funded nearly three-quarters of State Police operations.

Meanwhile, municipalities continue to abandon their local police forces and are relying on State Police instead. The municipalities save money, but such shifting puts a greater burden on the State Police budget.

News conference participants noted that failing to address these issues will have a negative effect on bridge and highway maintenance and construction, public transportation services and all other modes of transportation as well.

“The first steps in addressing problems are to identify them and sound the alarms,” said PHIA Managing Director Wagner. “It appears those steps are complete. Now it’s time to find solutions and implement them.”

 

PHIA NEWS DIGEST

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 13

March 25, 2019

Funding questions raise worry at Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority

The region’s public busing service faces an uncertain funding future from the state and federal governments as three sources of money are at risk.

Commercial travel bans: “trucking community very frustrated”

Travel bans mean a loss for drivers and for trucking companies working on small profit margins. Time-sensitive deliveries like milk and oil are put on hold, and sometimes those drivers are forced to secondary roadways.

PennDOT announces 2019 construction plan for District 11

PennDOT has released its 2019 construction plan for District 11, which includes Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence Counties. Crews will work on approximately 129 projects costing an estimated $310 million. Seventy-four of them will be new, while the remainder will be projects carried over from 2018.

Harrisburg seeks to shrink PennDOT’s massive 12-lane proposal for I-83

Mayor Eric Papenfuse announced Wednesday during a news conference for the city’s Vision Zero action plan that city officials planned to hire an engineering firm to analyze PennDOT’s data and come up with possible alternative designs.

Pa. faces transportation headaches and the cures are likely to cost us more

The four chairs of the House and Senate transportation committees gathered with the American Council of Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania for a news conference on Wednesday to issue a call for action to address the intertwined problems confronting the state’s transportation network.

Key Pennsylvania lawmaker optimistic about turnpike lawsuit

Suburban Republican Tim Hennessy, chairman of the state House Transportation Committee, says there have been discussions about what might happen if the Commonwealth loses, but declines to discuss them publicly.

What happened to those feasibility studies for additional passenger rail in Pennsylvania?

A study on adding more service from Pittsburgh to Altoona is allegedly in process, but that extra service’s potential future funding is currently in dire straits. And another study looking at adding service from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg appears to have been shelved entirely.

PhilaPort announces addition to leadership team

PhilaPort announced that Colette Pete, Esquire, has agreed to join PhilaPort as its chief counsel effective March 18th.

 

PHIA NEWS DIGEST

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 12

March 19, 2019

Philadelphia lawmaker’s bill authorizes speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard

Councilwoman Cherelle Parker introduced a bill Thursday that would authorize the installation of speed cameras along Roosevelt Boulevard. The cameras would be placed between 9th Street and the Philadelphia County line.

‘Hyperloop’ study: Could packages zip across Pennsylvania in minutes? Maybe

Packages hurtling from one end of the state to the other in under a half hour? Pennsylvania transportation officials think it’s less futuristic than it sounds, and they have committed $2 million to study the cost and impact of building a “hyperloop” across the state.

PennDOT announces liquid fuels distribution to municipalities

The March 1 distribution marked a $11.7 million, or 2.4 percent, increase over the $489 million distributed in 2018. Act 89 of 2013 made more funding available for locally owned roadways. Before the law, municipalities received $320.8 million in liquid fuels payments.

Regional rail service returning to Coatesville

SEPTA said last week that regional rail service will be returning to Coatesville. The proposed new rail line would extend from the current terminal in Thorndale to a new station in Coatesville.

Why Pennsylvania transportation funding could be in deep trouble

In a doomsday scenario, Pennsylvania could lose $18.5 billion in transportation funding over the next 12 years. That’s according to a state Department of Transportation advisory committee, which recently released a report on risks facing the commonwealth’s highway, bridge, and transit financials from the present until 2030.

York County company testing automated flagging for work zones

D.E. Gemmill Inc is now using automated flagging devices connected through a tablet with real-time video, providing an alternative to placing flaggers in harm’s way. According to company president David Gemmill, the new system will remove flaggers from the traffic flow, creating a safer work environment.

 

PHIA NEWS DIGEST

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 4, No. 11

March 11, 2019

CAT faces multi-million-dollar shortfall as lawsuit over Pa. Turnpike tolls lingers in court

Capital Area Transit is under new management, but now that state funding has been put on hold, any improvements the bus service has been making could stall out.

Lawmakers upbeat on ag budget proposal

Gov. Tom Wolf’s $24 million package to help Pennsylvania farmers has passed its first test in the legislature. During budget hearings this week, Appropriations Committee members in both chambers appeared generally favorable to the proposal.

State to begin study of hyperloop technology, potential Pittsburgh-to-Philadelphia route

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission this week approved a four-year contract worth up to $2 million for consultant AECOM to review the potential for a hyperloop system that would extend across the state.

Plan envisions adapting roads, expanding trails for walkers and bikers countywide

A plan scheduled for adoption next month aims at nothing less than “changing the culture of transportation” in Lancaster County. Currently in draft form, the 166-page Lancaster Active Transportation Plan envisions a county where communities are linked by trails for walking and biking.

State police issue 2K citations to commercial drivers during storms

State police noted enforcement wasn’t as extensive during this past Sunday’s storm, when commercial vehicle restrictions occurred on fewer miles of road in the central and eastern sections of the state. That was reflected in generally lower traffic incident numbers — 245 citations, 14 warnings and eight commercial vehicle wrecks on restricted roads.

City and autonomous vehicle companies agree to testing guidelines

An executive order signed by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto on Monday outlines objectives and expectations for the safe testing of autonomous vehicles in the city.

 

News

TAC report paints glum picture of transportation funding

March 7, 2019

Most readers of this publication and George Wolff’s Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition newsletter are aware of the transportation funding issues facing the Commonwealth.

Those issues include the lack of progress in achieving a federal highway funding solution, a lawsuit challenging the appropriateness of the Turnpike Commission’s subsidies to public transportation, the diversion of revenue from the Motor License Fund, and the declining revenue generated from fuel taxes and license and registration fees.

A recent report from the state’s Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) on transportation funding risks corroborates the challenges facing political leaders and policymakers, beginning as early as Pennsylvania’s new fiscal year on July 1.

The Turnpike has been unable to make the last three quarterly installments on the $450 million annual payment required by Act 44 of 2007. The matter is pending in federal court, and the uncertainty prevents the turnpike from securing the required bonds. Read more