The Pennsylvania Senate Transportation Committee today begins a series of 5 hearings dealing with transportation funding. The pressing problem for Pennsylvania is to come up with nearly $500 million this year for highways and mass transit. State officials were counting on that amount from tolling Interstate 80, but the U.S. Transportation Department rejected that proposal.
Beyond the immediate problem of filling a half billion dollar funding hole through additional revenues and/or cutting funding, a recent study shows Pennsylvania's gap between needs to improve roads, bridges and mass transit and actual funding sources is more than $3 billion.
Democratic Senator Wayne Fontana of Pittsburgh (Brookline) is a member of the Transportation Committee. He says the problem is always a lack of funds but not these hearings must bring possible solutions.
Governor Ed Rendell, who is to testify today before the committee, has said he prefers a tax on oil companies..."most of the oil companies pay very little in state taxes. That would remedy this dramatically. That’s what I’m for."
However, the oil companies would likely pass on the tax to service station operators who would then raise the price of gas at the pumps.
Other possibilities are raising the gas tax and increasing registration fees.
Senator Fontana says it's important that the public weighs in...."If some of the solutions are to raise a tax or a fee, then we want to hear from them to see if they would be okay...based on the dire straits of transportation in Pennsylvania."
According to that transportation funding study, about 7,000 of the 40,000 miles of state-maintained roads are in bad shape. Of the 25,000 state-maintained bridges, 5,600 are considered to be deficient.
Senate Transportation Committee Hearing Schedule:
Wednesday, July 21, Transportation Funding
Wednesday, July 28, Turnpike Financing/Reconstruction Projects
Wednesday, August 4, Transportation Funding/SEPTA
Tuesday, August 17, Use of Radar by Local Police
Tuesday, August 18, Improvements to the State’s Rail Lines and Ports