By now, there can be no doubt: Pennsylvania's transportation infrastructure is in trouble. We have 9,000 miles of deficient roads, 4,500 substandard bridges, and transit systems that struggle every year to maintain service.
For these reasons, we believe that it is important for you to speak out in your editorial pages on behalf of pending legislation that will ensure a safe, modern and efficient multi-modal transportation system for Pennsylvania.
The Legislature returns to session on Nov. 12 and this could mark the last chance for a bill that would end a decades-old transportation funding dilemma. Governor Tom Corbett has repeatedly made that case, literally displaying pieces that have fallen from crumbling bridges, urging the Legislature to take action and move transportation funding forward. PennDOT is adding or increasing weight restrictions on roughly 1,000 structurally deficient bridges statewide to slow down that very deterioration and preserve safety for our citizens.
While public safety is paramount, it is not our only worry. Failing to act on transportation funding will also hurt our economy. Citizens will pay higher prices on all goods – from a cup of coffee to major appliances – as delivery trucks take longer trips on congested roadways to avoid posted and closed bridges. In addition, jobs are in the balance. Without additional funding, construction spending will decrease and 12,000 jobs will be lost. Conversely, 25,000 jobs would be created with each $1 billion in investment.
A safe, reliable and convenient transportation system is not a luxury – it's a core responsibility of government. We need a multimodal solution, similar to the one the governor proposed this year, to grow and enhance transportation for all Pennsylvanians. The Pennsylvania General Assembly has an opportunity to enact legislation to significantly improve Pennsylvania's transportation system.
Below are some facts about Pennsylvania's transportation system:
Transportation Funding: The Facts
· Without a comprehensive transportation plan, more than 1.5 million children traveling to school every day on more than 31,000 school buses will travel increasingly longer routes on poorer roadway conditions.
· Without a plan, the costs of the more than $500 billion worth of goods and services moved in Pennsylvania annually will continue to rise as industries travel farther on congested roadways to avoid posted and closed bridges.
·Without funding, decreased project work will lead to the loss of 12,000 jobs; however, if investment is brought up to our needs, we have the potential to gain 50,000 jobs.
· Neighboring states have already voted to increase transportation funding, which creates a competitive disadvantage for PA in attaining and retaining business compared to other states. (Virginia, Maryland, and Ohio.)
Roads and Bridges
· Without a plan, the number of structurally deficient bridges, now at more than 4,000, will continue to rise and more will be posted or closed.
· PennDOT will work hard to ensure that major bridges with large traffic volumes remain open; however, funding will be diverted from other areas of the region, further limiting available resources for improvement projects.
· Travel conditions will worsen as the number of roadway miles in poor condition will continue to increase. In 2011, the state had 9,200 poor roadway miles, which will increase to an estimated 16,000 in 2017 without additional investment.
· Motorists will see increased costs to repair their vehicles as wear and tear from poor roadway conditions worsens.
· TRIP, a national transportation research group, reported that Pennsylvanians will pay an estimated $9.4 billion annually in additional vehicle operating costs, the cost of lost time and wasted fuel due to traffic congestion and crashes.
· A form of public transportation exists in every county providing vital links for our elderly and disabled citizens. Without a plan, those services could be in jeopardy.
· Roadway traffic and congestion will increase as transit service cuts or service disruptions put more people back on the highways in vehicles that previously weren't there.
· 800,000 people use public transportation every day in PA.
· 1.4 million Amtrak riders currently spare highways from further congestion.
Barry J. Schoch
Pa. Secretary of Transportation