Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Filling a $450 Million Budget "Pothole"

Pennsylvania’s top transportation official says bridges and highways will suffer real consequences if lawmakers don’t turn up new revenue during an upcoming special legislative session.
Officials had banked on revenue from I-80 tolling to fund transportation projects over the coming years, but now that option’s off the table.
Lawmakers need to fill a 450-million dollar gap in next year’s budget, though PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler says the problem goes beyond that.
Biehler says the federal government’s rejection of a tolling plan creates a major deficit in the years to come…

"In the next four years only, it’s about two billion dollars less on the highway and bridge side. We had a list of projects that we intended to do for that two billion dollars. That won’t happen. And we’ll be happy to publish that information."

Biehler says about seven thousand miles of Pennsylvania roadways need repairs, and the total cost for the state’s infrastructure fixes is around 14 billion dollars.
On May 4, the governor will convene a special legislative session focused on transportation funding. The Rendell Administration hasn’t endorsed a specific plan to raise new transportation revenue.
Biehler says a greater emphasis on public-private partnerships, like tolling, is one idea on the table. "There are certain aspects in the private side related to certain financing techniques, use of depreciation and so on – that we might not be able to take advantage of on the public side. But if we could have this partnership, maybe we could take advantage of both."
Some lawmakers have suggested increasing car and license registration fees.

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