Secretary Buttigieg on 60 Minutes

March 28, 2022

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been in the news quite a bit recently, thanks in part to various transportation issues involving or affecting Pennsylvania. The secretary sat down for a 60 Minutes interview recently that served as a general update on where things stand with restoring the U.S. transportation infrastructure. The lead-in of the segment recounted the collapse of Pittsburgh’s Fern Hollow Bridge earlier this year. If you missed the segment (or want to view it again) you can find it at this link.


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The industry’s transportation funding needs explained

February 21, 2022

Governor Wolf’s proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, unveiled last week, contained a bit of good news regarding transportation funding. Rather than gradually reducing the annual amounts of revenue diverted from the Motor License Fund to support State Police operations, the governor proposed to take the diverted amounts down to $500 million in the upcoming fiscal year.

It means that PennDOT would have around $140 million more available next fiscal year than it would with the more gradual rollback. While that is good news, it does not completely close the transportation funding gap that Pennsylvania now has.

Most readers of this newsletter are probably aware that Pennsylvania is slated to receive $4 billion in federal transportation funding over the next five years under the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Again, good news. However, Pennsylvania must provide a local match of 20% in order to leverage the entire $4 billion in federal money. The math is easy – that’s about $1 billion in new Pennsylvania money.

As reported here two weeks ago, APC and seven other transportation construction trade groups have called for Pennsylvania to halt all diversions from the Motor License Fund. It has proven too tempting and convenient to backfill General Fund operations, such as the State Police, with revenue that was originally intended for highway construction.

It is clear from APC’s annual polling that Pennsylvania voters strongly prefer that the revenue from fuel taxes and license and registration fees be used for its intended purpose, not for other things.

At its peak, the State Police diversion was just over $800 million, which added up to the equivalent of 12 cents a gallon – more than 20% of the nearly 60 cents per gallon in fuel taxes. At $500 million, it’s the equivalent of more than 8 cents per gallon, or 14% of the state fuel taxes.

Re-dedicating all of the Motor License Fund revenue for repairing and maintaining bridges and highways would cover the matching funds requirement to receive the federal money, allow for a modest bonding program, and get Pennsylvania back on track for addressing the Commonwealth’s transportation needs – without raising fuel taxes. And it would make Pennsylvania voters happy.



Senate bill would address autonomous vehicle issues

January 14, 2022

Nearly as soon as we ushered in a new year, Sen. Wayne Langerholc (R-Johnstown) hit the ground running.

Last week, Langerholc, Republican chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, unveiled legislation that would facilitate the testing and commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles. The bipartisan measure would bolster western Pennsylvania’s established leadership in the development of autonomous vehicle technology.

Senate Bill 965 would modify Pennsylvania laws to allow for vehicles to operate without a seated driver and permit testing and commercial deployment through Level 5, or full automation. It also would address insurance liability and local governance, as well as PennDOT’s role.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa and PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian joined Langerholc at the unveiling event, which was held at Carnegie Mellon University. CMU is a nationally recognized leader in advancing autonomous vehicle technology.

The bill was referred to Langerholc’s committee. For more information, follow this link.

And in a related matter, Senator Langerholc will appear at PHIA’s Policy Leader Breakfast on Feb. 8 at 7:30 a.m. at the Hilton Harrisburg. To register, click here.


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PennDOT announces new 511PA features

December 17, 2021

PennDOT has rolled out several significant improvements to the 511PA traveler information service, along with brief videos demonstrating how to use the new features.

One of the improvements involves personal travel alerts, which now can enable users to select the types of alerts they want to receive instead of receiving all alerts. Other types of information can be accessed using an email or mobile phone number, without creating a personalized account.

The mobile app now allows users to specify whether they are driving a personal or commercial vehicle and receive information pertinent to their type of vehicle. Anticipating a growing market for electric vehicles, the new features now include locations for charging stations.

For more information about the new features, follow this link.



‘Smart Talk’ program details infrastructure bill spending

December 2, 2021

By now, most of us are aware of the trillion-dollar federal infrastructure bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden. But how many of us are familiar with the details of the legislation?

WITF, Harrisburg’s NPR affiliate, devoted nearly an hour earlier this week to delving into some of those details on its “Smart Talk” radio program. Host Scott LaMar interviewed Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell; PennDOT Deputy Secretary Larry Shiflett; Cathy Farrell, co-chair of the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Report Card produced by the American Society of Civil Engineers; and PA Chamber of Business and Industry CEO Gene Barr in a wide-ranging discussion of how Pennsylvania’s $18 billion share will be spent.

To listen to the discussion, follow this link.