Turnpike Commission breaks ground on next phase of Mon/Fayette Expressway

May 25, 2023

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission officials have broken ground on the next phase of the Mon/Fayette Expressway, a $214 million contract for a three-mile section from Route 51 to Coal Valley Road in Jefferson Hills.

The current expressway runs 54 miles from I-68 near Morgantown to Jefferson Hills. When completed, the $1.3 billion southern section will ultimately extend eight miles from Route 51 to Route 837 in Duquesne.

The Tribune-Review posted a two-minute video of a drone’s-eye view of the construction site. To view it, follow this link.



Remembering Bud Shuster

April 28, 2023

This week, the transportation world mourns the passing of former Republican Congressman Bud Shuster, who in three terms as chairman of the House Transportation Committee built a legendary record for directing federal highway funds to his beloved PA 9th Congressional District.

Nicknamed “the King of Asphalt,” he resigned his congressional seat in 2001, a day after being sworn in to his 15th term. He cited party rules that limited members to three two-year terms as committee chairs, as well as family reasons. He was succeeded by his son, Bill, who served until 2019.

According to the New York Times, Bud’s two signature pieces of legislation were the 1998 surface transportation bill, which reserved revenue from gasoline taxes for road and transit projects, and a 2000 bill guaranteeing that money from a tax on airline tickets would be dedicated to aviation.

His constituents benefited from a vast array of transportation infrastructure, up to and including the Bud Shuster Highway, which links State College, Altoona and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. In 1991, former U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was asked which state had received the biggest share of highway money, to which he responded, “the State of Altoona.”

Among his many honors was being named PHIA’s Advocate of the Year in 1983. PHIA extends sincerest condolences to Bud’s family and friends.

To read his Altoona Mirror obituary, follow this link.



News of interest from budget address and committee announcements

March 13, 2023

Two events this week were of keen interest to highway builders and transportation advocates across the Commonwealth.

Governor Shapiro delivered his first budget address to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The consensus was that there are elements of the $44 billion spending plan that will appeal to a broad swath of the political spectrum. The fiscal year begins July 1, following several weeks of legislative review.

Of interest to the highway industry was the governor’s proposed funding plan, which would gradually remove the current $500 million annual State Police subsidy from the Motor License Fund, reducing it by $100 million per year for five years. This revenue would become available for improving and maintaining bridges and highways, without raising fuel taxes.

A second funding proposal also is in play. The state Senate has approved a measure that would shift $250 million immediately, then $50 million per year for five years, which also would remove the entire State Police subsidy. Enactment would require approval of the House and Governor Shapiro.

The second event of interest was the announcement of the chairs and members of the lower chamber’s Transportation Committee. Rep. Ed Neilson, a Philadelphia Democrat, and Kerry Benninghoff, a Centre County Republican, are the majority and minority chairs, respectively. A listing of the full committee membership can be viewed at this link.



Another Pittsburgh bridge deemed unsafe for traffic

February 2, 2023

Photo Used with Permission. Credit: Zoe Fuller / 90.5 WESA

The warm glow that we may have felt following the replacement of the collapsed Fern Hollow Bridge in under a year dissipated this week upon the news of the closing of the Charles Anderson Memorial Bridge in Oakland, effective immediately.

The bridge is on the western edge of Schenley Park and connects Squirrel Hill and Greenfield to Oakland and downtown Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh officials said a recent structural analysis of the bridge showed it is unsafe for traffic. Repairs will take at least four months and cost $1 to $2 million.

The good news is that the problems were discovered before a structural failure occurred. Mayor Ed Gainey attributed the timely discovery to safety systems that have been put in place in the last year.

The discovery also serves as a reminder that Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure is in poor condition. While there is optimism that funding solutions are around the corner, there is considerable work ahead to bring the condition of our bridges and highways up to an acceptable standard.

For a news article on the bridge’s closing, follow this link.



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.