Trump infrastructure plan is a starting point

February 20, 2018

President Trump recently unveiled his $1.5 trillion federal infrastructure proposal. The proposal would dole out $200 billion to states in matching federal money but require state and local governments to raise the remainder through taxation or public-private partnerships. The initiative also would allow states to generate their share by tolling.

The proposal did not specify sources for the matching federal money, saying it would result from cuts in other areas. The proposal also did not address the impending insolvency of the federal Highway Trust Fund.

The trust fund’s primary revenue source is fuel taxes, which have not been raised since 1993.

“As our friend George Wolff mentioned in the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition newsletter, the president’s proposal is a first step in addressing our infrastructure needs, but we have a long way to go.” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “In particular, this proposal must return the Highway Trust Fund to solvency to meet the states’ needs over the long term.”



Proposed budget reduces amount diverted from transportation

February 12, 2018

Governor Wolf’s proposed budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year would allocate $769 million to the State Police from the Motor License Fund.

That amount compares with $778 million in the current fiscal year and continues a gradual decrease that began following a study by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee last year.  The committee determined that under the Pennsylvania Constitution, the appropriate amount to be taken from the Motor License Fund should be about $533 million.

Under the constitution, money that flows into the Motor License Fund from fuel taxes and license and registration fees must be used for highway purposes, including highway safety.  The committee determined that the State Police allocate about 47 percent of their resources to highway safety.

“We’re happy to see the diverted amount reduced, although we would prefer that it occur more quickly,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner.  The committee found that reducing the diverted amount to the appropriate level would pay for paving more than 1,000 miles of roads and designing, replacing and maintaining nearly 140 bridges, he noted.

In a related matter, the proposed budget again calls for implementing a $25 per capita fee to municipalities that use the State Police as their main police force. Several legislators have introduced plans that would charge municipalities for state police coverage.  Residents of municipalities who utilize a local police force ultimately pay twice to subsidize a “free” police station for other municipalities.



PennDOT ends 2017 with $2.5 billion in construction lettings

January 11, 2018

Continued to be bolstered by Act 89, PennDOT finished the 2017 calendar year with over $479 million in project lettings in December according to numbers compiled by the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC).  As a result, PennDOT, finished the year with just over $2.578 billion in project lettings.  At the end of 2016, PennDOT bid a total of $2.670 billion in projects.  PennDOT forecasted the 2017 letting program to be $2.6 billion and they anticipate the same for 2018.

As in year’s past, PHIA will continue to track contract lettings on a monthly basis.

To view the full December letting report and year comparisons, click the link below.

December Letting Report* (PDF)


*The report lists the total contracts awarded at each letting date, a comparison to the same period in the previous calendar year, and letting adjustments made since the previous month. PHIA staff will track PennDOT lettings throughout the year and provide monthly update.


PHIA’s 2018 wish list

January 11, 2018

Happy New Year to one and all, and we hope you had a terrific holiday season. As we begin a new year, we thought we’d share our 2018 wish list. Here we go:

  • One of PHIA’s most important points of emphasis is public safety, not just for highway workers but for the traveling public. According to the Federal Highway Administration, 85 percent of the fatalities in highway work zones involve drivers and passengers, not highway workers. Because Maryland’s automated speed enforcement program has worked so well, reducing excessive speeding from 7 percent to less than one percent of drivers, we implore Pennsylvania’s policymakers to push for a consensus on the automated speed enforcement measure that has gone back and fourth in the General Assembly. Putting such a program into place before the beginning of the next construction season could save lives.
  • We join our fellow transportation advocates under the banner of the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition in supporting a rollback of the money that has been diverted from the Motor License Fund to support State Police operations. The Legislative Budget & Finance Committee says the Commonwealth has been diverting nearly $300 million more than is justified under the State Constitution, depriving Pennsylvanians of the transportation improvements they were promised preceding the passage of Act 89 of 2013. Let’s keep the transportation revenue where it belongs.
  • Along those same lines, there are other dedicated funds, most notably the Public Transportation Trust Fund and the Multimodal Transportation Fund, that are essential for building and maintaining a fully integrated transportation system that includes all modes of transportation. Again, let’s keep the transportation revenue where it belongs.
  • Another important issue is to see that drivers of hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles pay their fair share for the wear and tear they cause on our transportation assets. We can no longer place the responsibility solely on the backs of those who consume gasoline and diesel fuel.
  • Finally, for the longer term, we need to begin looking at alternatives to consumption taxes altogether and create a fee structure based on mileage. Charging drivers based on the fuel they consume does not allocate the maintenance responsibility as fairly as it should, and will become even less fair as we continue to move away from fossil fuels and toward alternatives.



Rafferty discusses transportation issues at PHIA event

December 12, 2017

Senate Transportation Chair John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) discussed a variety of transportation issues this week before a friendly crowd at PHIA’s final policy breakfast of the year.

Among Senator Rafferty’s points:

  • Act 89 has increased PennDOT’s bridge and highway budget to $2.4 billion per year from $1.5 billion before passage in 2013, but keeping transportation dollars for their intended purpose has been a challenge.
  • One of the ways to keep transportation dollars where they belong is to reduce reliance on the Motor License Fund to support State Police and find a way to replace that money in the State Police budget.
  • The project near and dear to his heart is a $100 million six-lane bridge on 422 over the Schuylkill in Valley Forge that will relieve congestion and spur development in much of the Philadelphia region. Replacement of the two-lane span is expected to be completed in spring of 2020.
  • He would also like to see an earlier end to the Act 44 Turnpike subsidies to non-Turnpike transportation needs than the current 2022 expiration date.
  • PA needs to strengthen DUI laws to discourage drunken driving and encourage people with drinking problems to get help.
  • The General Assembly still needs to reach consensus on automated speed enforcement in work zones. He believes that if the House adopted the Senate version of the legislation, the governor would quickly sign the bill.
  • Bipartisan efforts are putting Pennsylvania in position to maintain a leadership role in the development of autonomous vehicles.

Look for the next PHIA breakfast in the first quarter of next year.