Pa.'s Infrastructure Officially in Handbasket in Hell

By Randy LoBasso
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted May. 3, 2010

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Pennsylvanians are now being told to drive their cars at their own risk. Or, at least that’s what they should be told. Because, as has been detailed and detailed and detailed, our highways, bridges and mass transit are slowly imploding and a new report by the Transportation Advisory Committee just released some devastating news to the state’s lawmakers. The final result: Either “raise taxes, increase fees or place new tolls on highways to generate the needed funding," according to the Inky.

Long story short, transit needs a 50 percent increase over the $6.1 billion it currently gets. Finding the missing $3 billion, though, is not so simple. As you likely recall, the Obama administration denied tolling Interstate 80 through Pennsylvania last month, the money from which was supposed to go toward all these projects—including SEPTA’s big plans. That rejection created a $472 million dollar budget excavation throughout the state. But that was just a start. The Inky reports that this new TAC document finds a “chronic shortage of money for highways and mass transit, the report says. Its $3 billion figure comprises $2.5 billion more a year for state roads and bridges and about $500 million for mass transit.”

So, as screwed as we got when Rendell couldn’t get his budget in on time (that screwing came after the cutback of many government programs, including the Gun Violence Task Force), filling the $472 million is just the side dish.

The report gives a few ideas for funding. Here they are:

*Raising the gas tax
*Expand the 6 percent sales tax to gas
*Increase the oil company franchise tax
*Higher fees for drivers' licenses and motor-vehicle registrations
*Increase in real-estate transfer taxes
*Shift in the costs for state police from the motor license fund to the general fund

This is also from the report, pertaining to the awfulness of our infrastructure:

*Of the state's 25,000 bridges, more than 5,600, or about 22 percent, are structurally deficient
*Travel delays caused by congestion have doubled in the last 25 years and are projected to increase 50 to 60 percent by 2035
*Most roads were constructed in the 1960s or earlier and need to be rebuilt
*Mass-transit agencies are saddled with decrepit stations, outdated fare systems and worn-out power networks (Cough SEPTA Cough)

And there are a few proposals for long-term funding and, in parentheses, why they won’t work.

*New highway tolls (I-80. Tried. Next.)
*Public-private partnerships (Government opposition. Pa. doesn’t have a legal authority for such projects. Next.)
*Local option taxes (Pa. forbids local governments to do this. Next.)
*Fees for miles traveled (This New World Orderish idea comes from technology advances that’ll be able to track your vehicle’s movements and trigger payments to a collection authority based on how many miles you drive, when you drive and what lanes you drive in. Alex Jones is going to love that one.)
*Strategic Funding (Fine, but borrowing doesn’t solve the problem in the long run.)

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1. Ken said... on May 3, 2010 at 10:21AM

“I can understand that money is required to complete projects. That being said, there should be enough historical data to create a more accurate road map if you will, that includes data points for cost of material/labor and time line for new roadways, major overhauls and regular maintenance. Why is it that the budgets in place do not seem to take this data in to consideration and that the funding for these projects seem to be a last minute scramble to allocate funds for them? Followed by a list of possibilities that does not include streamlining the hemorrhaging process.
The inefficiencies of the infrastructure shortcomings have cost me thousands of dollars in new tires, rims and suspension work (which by the way, the city and state legally defer liability to the driver through the auto insurance law) as well as several dollars per day just in gas plus time sitting in traffic.”


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