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Former PHIA, TRIP executive has passed away

March 9, 2021

With sadness, we report that former PHIA Managing Director Don Knight has passed away at the age of 96.

A native of Weymouth, MA, Don joined the Marines following high school and served in the South Pacific at the height of World War II. He returned to Massachusetts and earned a journalism degree from Boston University.

He wrote for several newspapers in Pennsylvania and Virginia before pivoting to the nonprofit world, which included PHIA. He left PHIA in 1968 to become the first executive director for TRIP, the national transportation research organization headquartered in Washington. He retired in 1985.

A life-long Red Sox fan and avid tennis player, he was revered by those with whom he worked. We offer our sincere condolences to his wife, Phyllis, and all whose lives Don touched.

 

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Biden pitches infrastructure plans in meeting with labor reps

February 19, 2021

While President Biden’s coronavirus relief plan is getting most of the public policy attention lately, his meeting this week with labor leaders also had infrastructure on the agenda.

“We rank something like 38th in the world in terms of our infrastructure – everything from canals to highways to airports,” Biden was quoted as saying, noting that it underscores the need to increase U.S. competitiveness in that area.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more than 230 trade groups on Wednesday urged Congress to enact comprehensive infrastructure legislation by July 4.

“Given the economic and unemployment conditions, and the bipartisan support that infrastructure enjoys in Congress, it appears that things could finally be lining up for a comprehensive infrastructure program,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “It would give a significant boost to the economy, in both the short and long term.”

We hope to have frequent updates as the initiative advances, and we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for the July 4 launch date.

 

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Senate Transportation Committee hears details on P-3 plan

February 3, 2021

The Senate Transportation Committee held a hearing last week on PennDOT’s plan to boost transportation construction revenue by entering into Public-Private Partnerships with firms that would upgrade or replace select Interstate bridges and toll them.

PennDOT says it plans to select up to 10 bridges in geographically dispersed regions of the Commonwealth. Officials said they plan to identify the selected bridges next month.

Representatives of the PA Motor Truck Association said they are strongly opposed to tolling existing infrastructure. They explained that they are not able to recover tolling charges from their freight customers, and that the plan would have a detrimental impact on their industry.

Two Republican senators have introduced a resolution that would block the P-3 plan. The hearing was the first for Sen. Wayne Langerholc since he was named majority committee chair. He indicated there could be additional hearings on the issue.

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House and Senate Transportation Committees are set

January 15, 2021

As a new session of the General Assembly begins, both legislative houses have announced committee assignments. Those of us with a major interest in transportation are certain to have important measures launched and advanced in the House and Senate Transportation Committees.

There are a few new faces, most notably in the Senate, where Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr., a Johnstown-area Republican, takes the reins as majority chair. Pottstown Republican Tim Hennessey remains as majority chair in the House. Sen. John Sabatina, a Philadelphia Democrat, and Rep. Mike Carroll, a Hughestown Democrat, remain as minority chairs in the Senate and House, respectively.

Langerholc replaces Sen. Kim Ward, who advanced to Senate majority leader. She was a strong supporter of several transportation initiatives, and PHIA and the construction industry wish her well.

It appears that Langerholc, an attorney, is an excellent choice to succeed Ward. According to the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, he has been “a vocal advocate” for upgrading Route 219 between Johnstown and Maryland, as well as adding a second daily Amtrak passenger route between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.

“We look forward to working with Senator Langerholc and the other committee leaders and members to find ways to address the funding needs of our transportation system,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “The needs are great, and the stakes are high, but both committees have capable, supportive members.”

Follow this link to read the Trib-Dem article on Langerholc’s appointment.

 

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Buttigieg tapped to be new transportation secretary

December 18, 2020

Nearly one year ago, then-presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg unveiled his $1 trillion infrastructure plan and began to weave it into his campaign. Having been selected this week by President-elect Joe Biden to be U.S. Department of Transportation secretary, we may see many elements of that plan come to fruition in coming years.

Infrastructure and environmental quality are a high priority for Biden. During the campaign, he spoke of modernizing highways and roads and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

It appears that Biden and Buttigieg have similar goals. Buttigieg’s plan included:

  • Infusion of $165 billion for the Highway Trust Fund to make it solvent through 2029, through a user-fee system such as a vehicle-miles traveled fee, replacing the gas tax.
  • Creating 6 million “well-paying” jobs.
  • Updating and fixing at least half of all roads and bridges in poor conditions by 2030.
  • Advancing autonomous vehicle technology.
  • Expanding the market for electric vehicles, an initiative the vehicle manufacturers are beginning to embrace globally.

Despite bipartisan support for improving transportation infrastructure generally, policy differences remain. Finding the resources to fund these initiatives will not be easy either, and Buttigieg awaits Senate confirmation.

Still, given the stated importance of infrastructure by members of the new administration, transportation advocates have reason for optimism as we approach 2021. A more detailed recap of Buttigieg’s plan can be found here.