Who Will Pay for Necessary Improvements to Pennsylvania’s Transportation Infrastructure?

by McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC
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In April 2011, Governor Tom Corbett established a Transportation Funding Advisory Commission (“Commission”) to develop a comprehensive, strategic proposal for addressing Pennsylvania’s transportation funding needs. In early August, the Commission released its report, which includes modernization initiatives and a recommended funding package, as well as proposed legislative action and follow-up studies. There is broad support in the business community for the Commission’s recommendations. However, as of early September, Governor Corbett has not disclosed which of the Commission’s recommendations he will support. The Commission’s recommendations include a fuel tax increase as a primary funding mechanism, and Governor Corbett has to this point opposed any increases in state taxes.

No one can dispute that Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure is in urgent need of repair and reinvestment. The Commission’s report notes that 5,205 bridges in the state are rated as “structurally deficient” ?and 8,452 miles of Pennsylvania highway are in need of rehabilitation or reconstruction. Public transportation has also experienced serious??financial challenges. Per the Commission’s report, the state’s underinvestment in transportation infrastructure is due in large part to rising construction costs and the limitations of tying funding revenues to fuel consumption. The fuel tax, which is a key component of transportation funding, has been generating less revenue per vehicle over time due to advances in vehicle fuel economy.

While Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure problems and funding challenges have been under evaluation for several years, the state has yet to successfully adopt a short or long term plan for the adequate funding of transportation infrastructure. After Pennsylvania’s second application to toll I-80 was rejected by the United States Department of Transportation in April 2010, Governor Rendell called for a Special Session of the Legislature to focus on Pennsylvania’s transportation funding needs. As a result, several bills were introduced with various transportation funding options, but none of those bills contained a comprehensive funding plan and none were enacted.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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