HARRISBURG—A House task force investigating how to better fund transportation infrastructure concluded that shortfalls in funding for transportation improvements is linked, in part, to the spending of Motor License Fund money on non-transportation-related projects.
The task force, headed by Rep, Martina White (R-Philadelphia), was formed to give a comprehensive overview of the status of Pennsylvania’s transportation system and its funding mechanisms. It was created in July 2019 by Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster), who selected 10 House Republican members based on their experience on the Appropriations and Transportation committees. The members were also chosen because they represent a diverse cross section of the state.
The task force concluded that shortfalls in funding for transportation were widespread.
Specifically, the report cited $4.5 billion diverted to the Pennsylvania State Police from the fund since 2012-13. “As a result of the diversions, only 27% of PennDOT’s projects in 2017 were completed,” the task force reported. “By ending these diversions permanently, transportation priorities could be completed, and new projects could begin.”
“Our review of the state’s transportation infrastructure revealed crumbling roads, failing bridges, aging railcars and buses, along with congested highways and inner-city gridlock,” White said. “Yet, despite legislation, like Act 89 of 2013, to raise funds for transportation, many projects have stalled, and maintenance has been delayed.”
• The gas tax increase passed in 2013 is failing to meet revenue projections due in part to an increase in more fuel-efficient vehicles, like hybrids and electric models. The price of fuel has also remained relatively low contributing to missed revenue projections, while the cost of infrastructure projects has increased at 2.25%, a loss of $100 million in buying power each year.
• Act 44 of 2007
required the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to provide PennDOT with $450 million annually for transportation capital needs. This forced the PTC to debt finance these payments leading to additional toll increases for 11 straight years and increased debt, now at $13 billion. They have reduce its rebuilding program by 13% and it cannot consider any potential expansion projects.
• In July 2022, the turnpike’s $450 million annual obligation to PennDOT will drop to $50 million per year until 2057 creating a large funding gap in the General Fund.
• There are approximately 25,000 state-owned bridges in Pennsylvania, of which 23% are considered structurally deficient bridges that are safe to travel across, but at the end of their useful life.
• Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are among the top 10 most congested cities in the U.S. In 2018, the cost of congestion in Pittsburgh was $1,776 per driver and $1.2 billion for the city. Philadelphia’s growing traffic congestion costs bus and car passengers $152 million in annual time and transportation costs.
To improve our transportation infrastructure, the task force called for ending diversions, improving efficiencies, and localization.
Specifically, the task force recommended:
• Expediting the transfer of state police funding to a General Fund obligation. By ending these diversions, transportation priorities would be completed, and new projects could begin.
• Giving counties and regions the ability to consider local solutions. Act 89 authorized local counties to impose a $5 additional vehicle registration fee to fund local transportation projects. Many counties have implemented this fee and are seeking additional options to raise funds locally.
• Consolidating the private sector permitting process for large projects to improve efficiencies to repair hundreds of roads and bridges simultaneously. This would improve project development and allow PennDOT to manage programs rather than individual projects. Expedited permit approval would speed up recommended infrastructure replacement projects.
• Providing PennDOT with the explicit authority it needs to implement the design-build method for certain sized projects, such as those larger than $100 million.
• Updating PennDOT contract standards to account for new technological advancements in the concrete industry. This would yield savings by encouraging competition between asphalt and concrete companies.
“As leaders, it is our responsibility to take action to strengthen the foundation of what moves Pennsylvania forward,” White said. “We may be a diverse state with competing rural and urban interests, but we rely on one another to be competitive nationally and internationally. We are ‘one’ Pennsylvania that shares a vision for a modern transportation infrastructure.”
Read the task force report and see the bills for implementing the report’s recommendations here
Representative Martina White
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: David Foster