Markell Budget Again Proposes Shifting Millions from Transportation Fund

AASHTO Journal, 6 February 2015

Gov. Jack Markell proposed transferring nearly $40 million for the second year out of Delaware’s Transportation Trust Fund to help cover general fund expenses and balance the budget, even as he presses state lawmakers to come up with new revenue for roads, bridges and other transportation needs.

020615markell.jpg Markell shows legislature concrete chunk that fell off I-95 bridge.

The budget plan Markell outlined Jan. 29, for the fiscal year that starts July 1, calls for about $347 million in spending from the trust fund, which was reported to be roughly the same as for the current year.

Last year the governor also proposed raising the gasoline tax by 10 cents a gallon to sharply increase infrastructure spending, but it did not advance in the legislature.

In his Jan. 22 State of the State address, Markell took before lawmakers a chunk of concrete that he said came loose from the Interstate 95 bridge over the Brandywine River this summer. “Similar pieces have fallen from Route 141 onto the I-95 shoulder,” he said, “and from the DuPont Road Bridge over the East Penn Railroad. And these aren’t the only examples of roads and bridges falling apart.”

Markell said: “We must do better. We have been talking about this for too many years. As the 2011 Transportation Trust Fund Task Force Report made clear, the condition of our roads and bridges will deteriorate without more investment. It’s that simple.

“On the other hand, investing in our infrastructure will promote long-term economic activity, while reducing commute times and improving road safety. And in the short term, we can put thousands of people to work through construction – exactly the types of jobs that have suffered the most since the recession.”

Markell said he would consider various options, including a phase-in of new revenue and a “lockbox” provision to make the added money available only for transportation. “Bring me your ideas on how to fund our infrastructure responsibly, and I will work with you to pass and sign legislation to accomplish this important goal,” he said.

While Markell and legislators discuss transportation funding, the Delaware Department of Transportation is transitioning to new leadership. On Feb. 3, Jennifer Cohan was sworn in as transportation secretary, following her Jan. 28 Senate confirmation.

She replaces Shailen Bhatt, who is moving west to become executive director of Colorado’s DOT.

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