PennDOT Chief Details Top Transportation Priorities

Tom Warne Report, 11 December 2013

The Patriot-News – December 4, 2013

Pennsylvania’s Transportation Secretary said this week that the states backlog of aging bridges and needed road maintenance will take precedence in the first year of increased transportation funding. The new bill, signed by Gov. Tom Corbett over Thanksgiving, will phase out the state’s reliance on Turnpike revenue to pay for transportation needs through 2021, although the scheduled toll increases of about 3 percent will likely still be needed until then.

“You can expect to see a significant increase in bridge work, paving work and intersection work this spring,” said Secretary Barry Schoch in a briefing Wednesday on the implementation of the bill that will bring an estimated $2.4 billion in new funding every year for Pennsylvania’s transportation system. The plan will mainly be funded by the gradual elimination of a longstanding cap on a tax on wholesale fuel transactions, which analysts say could raise the price of a gallon of gasoline by 28 cents within five years. The remainder of the funding will come from various fee and fine increases for drivers.

The current fiscal year will see about $320 million from the plan, and 2014-15 will raise $1.2 billion. Projects that will receive funding throughout the 2014 construction season will be announced and bid this winter and spring.

In a new cost-sharing plan with local governments, “we will partner with [municipalities] to make significant upgrades to traffic signals, intersections and things that will relieve bottlenecks” to improve congestion in the short-term, Schoch said. Under state law, traffic signal maintenance on state roads is the responsibility of local governments. The new plan earmarks $10 million in 50 percent state grants for upgrade projects this year, growing to $40 million annually by 2018.

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