News

National study shows fatalities are increasing for traveling public

June 30, 2022

TRIP, a national nonprofit transportation research organization, released a study this week that chronicles alarming national trends in motorist, bicycle and pedestrian safety. In essence, it documents significant increases in fatalities, even as vehicle travel rates dropped due to the COVID pandemic.

The data show an abrupt reversal in fatality rates, which had been dropping before the pandemic. The data show that U.S. traffic fatalities increased by 19% from 2019 to 2021.

Pennsylvania’s data track with national trends. Traffic fatalities during the same period increased by 17% in Pennsylvania, and fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled increased by 24%, while vehicle miles traveled decreased by 6% per billion.

Nationally, bicycle and pedestrian fatalities also increased significantly. Bicycle fatalities increased by 16%, and pedestrian fatalities by 18%.

Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded that the fatality increases were related to increased risks being taken by drivers. These risks include speeding, failure to wear seat belts and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

To combat the increase in fatalities, in early 2022 the U.S. Department of Transportation adopted a comprehensive National Roadway Safety Strategy, a roadmap for addressing the nation’s roadway safety crisis based on a “Safe System” approach, which is also being adopted by state and local transportation agencies. For more information, click here.

The TRIP study also said that new funding for improved roadway safety through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide additional resources to address traffic safety.

Click here to view the TRIP report, appendix, infographics and video interview footage with report authors.

 

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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.

 

News

Road and Bridge Safety Awards Program Now Open for PA Counties

June 2, 2022

PHIA has launched its annual Road and Bridge Safety Improvement Award program for 2022.  The annual contest is now taking applications from members of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP).

Each year the Pennsylvania Highway Information Association (PHIA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) team with various state organizations to recognize the best road safety or bridge improvement projects undertaken across the state.   Eligible projects are those in which most or all of the safety improvements were completed in 2021.  The competition recognizes not only major, high-cost projects, but any improvements that have increased public safety.

The CCAP program will recognize counties’ use of highway user fees for needed community safety improvements, culminating in a presentation to the winners at CCAP Annual Conference at the  Lancaster County Convention Center on August 7-10, 2022.  Click HERE to download a copy of the entry brochure.  The entry deadline is July 1, 2022.

For more information on other municipal organizations’ Road and Bridge Safety Award programs, click here.

 

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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.