2010-05-06 / Local & State

New Study Outlines $3.5 Billion Transportation Funding Gap

Builds on 2006 study with updated estimates; calls for innovative solutions

A new report by the state Transportation Advisory Committee underscores the dramatic unmet needs the General Assembly and Gov. Edward G. Rendell must address in a special legislative session that began Monday to deal with transportation funding.

The TAC report recommends an additional $3.5 billion in annual funds to maintain existing state and local highway and bridge systems and public transit. The TAC report was accepted and adopted Monday by the State Transportation Commission.

“New sources of revenue need to be identified, and existing sources need to be re-examined to provide funding that meets the enormous investment need,” said Louis C. Schultz Jr., P.E., chairman of the TAC Transportation Funding Task Force. “Pennsylvania must shift away from outmoded methods of generating transportation revenue and toward methods that are more predictable, equitable and in sync with inflation.”

The report follows up on findings released in November 2006 by the nine-member, bipartisan Transportation Funding and Reform Commission, which Gov. Rendell created in 2005. The TFRC determined that the state was spending $1.7 billion per year less than was needed to keep its transportation systems in good repair.

The General Assembly developed Act 44 in response, which was expected to generate on average $946 million a year over the first 10 years for transportation. Increased tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike underwrote part of the additional revenue, but the other portion was to come from implementing tolls on Interstate 80 under a 50-year lease between the Department of Transportation and the Turnpike Commission. The U.S. Department of Transportation rejected the I-80 tolling plan on April 6.

The TAC study concluded that despite $2.5 billion in additional revenue from Act 44 since 2007 and the infusion of $1.026 billion from last year’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, transportation remains critically underfunded.

“The crisis is the result of several factors, particularly the sheer expanse and age of Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure,” Schultz said. “Compounding the problem, existing ways of raising revenue are being quickly outmoded by changes in technology, vehicle efficiency and soaring construction costs.”

Producing the required funds will allow Pennsylvania to cut the percentage of structurally deficient bridges from roughly 23 percent to 5 percent in 20 years, put pavement improvements on an appropriate cycle, modernize traffic signals to cut congestion, keep public transit in a state of good repair with some expansions, eliminate freight bottlenecks and improve safety.

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