2010-08-19 / Local & State

Transportation Commission Approves 12-Year Program Update

New plan anticipates dramatic drop in spending for transportation

The state Transportation Commission has approved an update to the 12-Year Transportation Program that reflects an expected 24 percent reduction in funding for improvements for highways, bridges, transit, aviation and rail freight. The new plan anticipates $51.6 billion being available over the next 12 years, well below the $67.9 billion outlined in the 2009 plan update.

“The message Gov. Edward G. Rendell is delivering around the state is right on the mark,” said PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E., who also is commission chairman. “Pennsylvania is falling far short of making the needed investments just to keep our system in a state of good repair. The reductions outlined in the new 12-Year Program are a dramatic example of where we are headed.”

Last week, Gov. Rendell made 20 visits to communities across the state to call attention to the unmet transportation needs. The governor convened a special session of the General Assembly on transportation on May 4, and he has asked legislators to reconvene the special session Aug. 23 to work on solutions.

Uncertainty about the future direction of federal funds, as well as the effects of inflation and the lack of additional resources, has squeezed the latest update to the program, Biehler noted. Congress has yet to enact a new six-year authorization bill to pay for transportation in Pennsylvania and across the nation. The 12-Year Program update assumes 1 percent growth in federal funds in 2011 and 2012 and 4 percent in 2013-14. Further cuts may be needed depending on funding levels in the new reauthorization bill. The federal government also rejected Pennsylvania’s request to toll Interstate 80, leaving a roughly $500- million- a-year hole in the state’s transportation budget.

In the 12-Year Program, which takes effect Oct. 1, highway and bridge projects in the first four years total $10.2 billion, compared to $12.2 billion in the 2009 program. Public transit is in line for $6.3 billion compared to the current $7.5 billion; aviation, $602 million compared to the current $604 million; and rail freight, $228 million compared to the current $234 million.

PennDOT has been posting lists of projects that were deferred because of funding reductions at www.FundPaTransportationNow. com. The site also shows what projects can be done with various levels of additional funds, should the General Assembly agree to authorize additional funding.

Eight rural planning organizations and 15 metropolitan planning organizations partnered with PennDOT in the review and development of the update. It will now be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration for review and approval. The Federal Highway Administration coordinates with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review the plan’s conformity with air quality requirements.

Highway funds listed in the 12- Year Program are distributed across the state according to a formula that weighs population, lane miles and vehicle miles traveled. Bridge funds are distributed based on the condition of each region’s structures.

The State Transportation Commission consists of 10 appointed citizens and the majority and minority chairpersons of the state House and Senate transportation committees.

State law dictates that the commission review and update the 12-Year Program every two years. No project can move forward unless it is included in the 12-Year Program.

Information about the program, is at http://www.dot.state.pa.us/In-ternet/ pdCommissCommitt.nsf/TransC om-missHomepage-OpenFrameset.

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