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PennDOT secretary-nominee somehow seems familiar

January 13, 2023

Once he’s confirmed by the PA Senate, Josh Shapiro’s nominee to serve as PennDOT secretary won’t need to ask anyone for directions to PennDOT’s headquarters, or the governor’s office, or the Capitol complex hearing rooms and legislative offices, or where to grab a quick sandwich or salad for lunch.

Secretary-designee Mike Carroll will surely feel right at home in Harrisburg, where he has spent the vast majority of his career – a career that has been chock-full of transportation policy issues even before his 16-year stint as a legislator, capped off last year as Democratic chair of the House Transportation Committee.

His decision not to seek reelection saddened his cohorts on the committee, who knew him as a consensus-builder with a vast reservoir of institutional knowledge, but everyone eventually needs to try new things.

And now we know what his “new thing” will be. Having seen transportation policy through the lens of a congressional, gubernatorial and legislative staff member, and a state representative serving constituents in Lackawanna, Luzerne and Monroe counties, his next chapter would keep him in Harrisburg, riding herd over one of the nation’s largest state departments of transportation.

The transportation industry welcomed the news of Mike’s nomination. APC’s Bob Latham said:

“We would be hard-pressed to name anyone more capable to lead PennDOT than Mike Carroll. His knowledge and experience with transportation issues began early in his career and continued through his years in the General Assembly. We are facing enormous challenges in funding and maintaining Pennsylvania’s 40,000 miles of state highways. The industry looks forward to continued partnership with PennDOT under Mike Carroll’s leadership.”

PHIA and the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition also add their congratulations and well wishes. We anticipate a pivotal year in advancing transportation funding solutions and look forward to a fruitful 2023.

 

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Electric vehicle update

August 15, 2022

They may not be getting lots of attention, but electric vehicles are gearing up to take a significant bite out of market share in the years ahead.

PennDOT reports that there are now more than 31,000 EVs registered in Pennsylvania, three times the number that were registered in March 2019.

Last month, PennDOT submitted its plan to the federal government for building a network of charging ports across the state. The plan (which can be found at this link) calls for at least 5,000 EV charging ports at 2,000 sites in Pennsylvania by 2028.

PennDOT counts 2,800 public charging ports at more than 1,200 locations across Pennsylvania at present.

The plan was required in order to receive $171.5 million in National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure funds over the next five years. An additional $2.5 billion in grant funding is available as well.

Also tied to the funding is something called the EV Equity Guiding Principles, which states are obliged to follow. They include making EVs more affordable and charging more accessible; investing in fleet electrification; investing in traditionally underserved, low-income, persons of color and otherwise vulnerable population areas; and increasing EV awareness, education and technical capacity.

Vehicle manufacturers across the globe have expressed strong interest in growing the EV market, and advances in battery and charging technology have piqued consumer interest. Prices will become more competitive as the market grows and as environmental standards tighten.

Pennsylvania also must settle in on a system to assure that all vehicle users make a fair contribution to bridge and road construction and maintenance. Currently, EV users do not contribute to paying for the wear and tear on the transportation system.

 

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APC calls for further reduction in bridge and highway fund diversions

June 16, 2022

Associated Pennsylvania Constructors is reviving an initiative to further reduce the diversions from the Motor License Fund, the constitutionally protected repository for fuel taxes and license and registration fees that fund PennDOT’s bridge and highway program.

The initiative would keep $300 million in the Motor License Fund, instead of using it to subsidize State Police operations. Pennsylvania has approximately $2 billion in unspent federal COVID money and a projected budget surplus of nearly $4.5 billion, which could be tapped to back-fill the State Police budget.

The Commonwealth had been gradually reducing the annual diversions. The diversion this fiscal year has been $673 million. Governor Wolf had proposed to take the diverted amount down to $500 million, and this initiative would take it down to $200 million.

In a letter to members of the General Assembly, APC said the plan would provide additional revenue for PennDOT’s construction program without raising taxes or license and registration fees. Additionally, it would enable Pennsylvania to fund the public-private partnership major bridge initiative without imposing tolls on those bridges.

Finally, it would cover the required state match of nearly $1 billion that is a condition for receiving $5 billion in federal infrastructure funds over the next five years.

The initiative comes as legislators continue work on a new state budget set to go into effect July 1. APC this week launched an outreach program inviting transportation advocates to urge their state legislators to support the initiative. Advocates can identify and contact their legislators through this link.

 

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Court halts major bridge initiative; PennDOT appeals

May 25, 2022

A Commonwealth Court judge issued an injunction last week that temporarily blocks PennDOT from proceeding with plans to restore or replace nine major bridges and pay for the initiative by tolling the bridges.

Judge Ellen Ceisler ordered the halt, ordering PennDOT to stop all studies, right-of-way acquisitions, construction or work under any contracts, and put off any planned hearings, meetings or spending, pending the resolution of a related lawsuit.

The tolls were opposed by Cumberland County and seven municipalities, which contended that the process was illegal and unconstitutional. PennDOT quickly filed an appeal.

Judge Ceisler said the Public-Private Partnership Board “essentially approved a massive multi-billion-dollar infrastructure initiative on an admittedly meager record, consisting of a four-page recommendation from (PennDOT), a presentation, and minimal discussion, and without understanding which, or how many, pieces of public infrastructure the initiative would affect.”

The nine bridges being considered are the Interstate 83 span over the Susquehanna River between Dauphin and Cumberland counties; I-78′s Lenhartsville Bridge in Berks County; I-79′s bridges over State Route 50 in Allegheny County; I-80′s bridges across Canoe Creek in Clarion County, Nescopeck Creek in Luzerne County, North Fork in Jefferson County and the Lehigh River, near Wilkes-Barre; I-81 over the Susquehanna River in northern Pennsylvania; and the Girard Point Bridge in Philadelphia.

 

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Plans for electric vehicle charging in PA

April 29, 2022

Even before the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was signed, Pennsylvania was already identifying electric vehicle charging corridors. The law provides for $7.5 billion to expand the EV charging network across the country.

Pennsylvania’s share of that will be $171.5 million for charging infrastructure, along with access to $2.5 billion in discretionary grant funding for all alternative fueling infrastructure.

As global vehicle manufacturers advance their plans to transition to EVs, the market for them will grow quickly. PennDOT held a webinar recently to provide an update on where things stand. PennDOT noted that in March 2019, there were 9,700 registered electric vehicles, and now there are 23,000.

More details from the webinar can be found at this link.

Also on the state’s to-do list is to establish a fee structure for EVs, which at present do not contribute to the restoration and upkeep of our bridge and highway infrastructure. We are hopeful that a fee structure will be addressed before the General Assembly breaks for the summer.