PHIA NEWS DIGEST

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 6, No. 13

March 29, 2021

Federal pandemic aid floated as solution for Pa. bridge repair

Bob Latham, executive vice president of Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, told the House Transportation Committee this week to award $1.3 billion in new contracts – referred to as “lettings” within the road construction industry – from the $7.3 billion allocated to the state via the American Rescue Plan.

Panel begins work on finding new ways to pay for transportation needs

Work has begun on finding new ways to raise more money for road and bridge projects and allow Pennsylvania to phase out its gas tax.

Pa. House panel vets PennDOT’s bridge tolling proposal

There’s little dispute over the need for Pennsylvania to find new ways of funding transportation projects but how to do it is where division ensues, including the proposed tolling of bridges to pay for their reconstruction.

PennDOT to commercial drivers: No more license, permit extensions after March 31

PennDOT said the most recent extension for commercial driver licenses and commercial learner’s permits ends March 31, and there are no plans to extend the expiration dates again.

Highway construction firms oppose PennDOT’s bridge toll plan

A prominent highway construction trade association on Wednesday came out against a state plan to toll up to nine major bridges around Pennsylvania in need of repairs as lawmakers move to block the plan, although Gov. Tom Wolf’s top transportation official disputed the trade association’s criticisms.

PennDOT to begin upgrade of I-95 interchange in Philadelphia

James J. Anderson Construction of Philadelphia is general contractor on the $31,245,910 project that is financed with 100 percent federal funds. The entire project is expected to be completed by late 2022.

 

News

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 6, No. 12

March 22, 2021

Transportation funding must be addressed

Gov. Tom Wolf’s new approach to identifying reliable long-term funding for Keystone State roadways and public transit systems faces numerous “potholes.”

Pa. elected officials call for Feds to support transition to electric cars

State and local elected officials are calling on the federal government to speed the transition to cleaner vehicles.

I-83 bridge toll proposal may force state’s hand on gas tax funding problem

Pennsylvania’s long and largely unfruitful struggle to sustainably fund both transit and the state police is a few steps closer to hitting a breaking point — one which will almost certainly have an impact on Cumberland County.

Will Pennsylvania Be the First State to Motor Past the Gas Tax?

After Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act last week, infrastructure spending—and its funding—is taking center stage. For example, the federal excise tax rate on motor fuels has not been changed since 1993, and the tax has not raised sufficient revenue to cover expenditures since 2008. Several states also are in this position and are looking for ways to address the issue.

New commission must find ways to pay for Pa. infrastructure

There is one thing that nearly everyone can agree on — Pennsylvania’s highways and bridges are in desperate need of repairs and upgrades. There is also one thing that almost no one can agree on — how to pay for it.

Sens. Langerholc, Sabatina invited to join Transportation Revenue Options Commission

Sens. Wayne Langerholc Jr. (R-Cambria County) and John Sabatina (D-Philadelphia), Senate Transportation Committee chairman and minority chairman, have been invited to sit on the Transportation Revenue Options Commission.

PennDOT widening projects under increased scrutiny during transit funding uncertainty

Pennsylvania transportation officials have estimated that they need about $15 billion a year to keep the state’s roads and bridges in good condition, even though there is only about $6.9 billion in funds available. This shortfall has led Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration to propose several methods of raising revenue for PennDOT.

Radar speeding enforcement for local police passes in House committee

A bill allowing municipal police across Pennsylvania to use radar guns for speed enforcement details passed the state House Transportation Committee 25-0 Tuesday in a strong early show of support.

Tolling I-83 South Bridge could wind up saving people time and money: PennDOT official

Tolling the I-83 South Bridge to pay for its replacement may cost motorists money but a PennDOT official suggested it also could produce some savings for them from not having to sit idling in traffic jams waiting to get across the Susquehanna River.

Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway construction is once again underway

Construction of the northern section of the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway has resumed after a winter shutdown.

Featured

Governor calls for fuel tax phase-out, creates funding commission

March 19, 2021

Last week, Governor Wolf announced he wants to phase out the Commonwealth’s liquid fuel taxes, and he created the Transportation Revenue Options Commission to explore alternatives to that revenue source.

APC’s Bob Latham was named to the commission, along with other stakeholders, including several others from the construction industry.

The governor noted what we have noted in this space many times – that a national energy policy that encourages reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions, coupled with automakers determined to move the market toward cleaner energy, are making the consumption taxes increasingly less reliable as a funding source for transportation infrastructure.

The coronavirus pandemic has also had a stifling effect on transportation revenue, affecting public transportation, the Turnpike, and other transportation modes as well as highway builders. It appears that the negative impact of the pandemic will be with us for some time.

The governor’s new commission will meet next week and is tasked with submitting funding options by Aug. 1. It will be chaired by PennDOT Secretary Yasmin Gramian. In addition to industry representatives, members will include economic, and community stakeholders from both the public and private sectors, including majority and minority leaders from the House and Senate Transportation and Appropriations committees.

The commission appears to have some similarities to the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission, which helped bring us Act 89 of 2013. For more details about the commission, including a listing of members, click here.

 

PHIA NEWS DIGEST

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 6, No. 11

March 15, 2021

Gov. Wolf commits to phasing out gas tax, announces commission to develop funding solutions 

Governor Tom Wolf today reiterated his commitment to phase out Pennsylvania’s gas tax, which is becoming an unreliable source for funding Pennsylvania’s vast transportation network. To make this possible and to further address the state’s transportation funding needs, the governor has also signed an Executive Order establishing the Transportation Revenue Options Commission, which will develop comprehensive funding recommendations for Pennsylvania’s large and aging infrastructure.

PA Turnpike refutes ‘most expensive’ toll road in the world ranking

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission officials say a recent report ranking its toll rates the highest in the world is “seriously flawed.”

Transportation Secretary Buttigieg shares thoughts on bridge and I-80 tolls

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg says he’s open to tolling Interstate 80 but not inclined to see bridges tolled.

PA’s rank regarding bad bridges continues to improve

Of the 22,911 bridges in Pennsylvania, the FHWA classified 15.3% (3,501 bridges) of them as structurally deficient in 2019. This is down from 4,701 bridges in 2015.

The debate over tolling Pennsylvania bridges, explained 

Pennsylvania’s infrastructure is in trouble. Lackluster tax collections during the COVID-19 pandemic nearly put a halt last year to hundreds of road projects across the commonwealth, which were kept alive only after the state floated short-term debt to pay contractors and suppliers.

Pa. lawmaker wants to slow down plan to add tolls on bridges

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Wayne Langerholc, R-Cambria County, has introduced legislation that would limit the powers of the independent public-private partnership board that authorized the bridge tolling plan.

PennDOT announces new Scenic Byway designation

PennDOT announced that the Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway in Chester and Delaware counties has received a National Scenic Byways designation from the Federal Highway Administration.

Electric vehicle use bills are introduced

Rep. MaryLouise Isaacson, D-Philadelphia, has introduced two pieces of legislation in the state House of Representatives. House Bill 524 was referred recently to the House Finance Committee. It would amend the Tax Reform Code of 1971 to create a tax exemption for any zero-emission vehicle.

 

Featured, News

Former PHIA, TRIP executive has passed away

March 9, 2021

With sadness, we report that former PHIA Managing Director Don Knight has passed away at the age of 96.

A native of Weymouth, MA, Don joined the Marines following high school and served in the South Pacific at the height of World War II. He returned to Massachusetts and earned a journalism degree from Boston University.

He wrote for several newspapers in Pennsylvania and Virginia before pivoting to the nonprofit world, which included PHIA. He left PHIA in 1968 to become the first executive director for TRIP, the national transportation research organization headquartered in Washington. He retired in 1985.

A life-long Red Sox fan and avid tennis player, he was revered by those with whom he worked. We offer our sincere condolences to his wife, Phyllis, and all whose lives Don touched.