Standing under the 81-year-old Tilghman Street Bridge in Allentown, Lehigh County, Governor Edward G. Rendell urged state lawmakers to do the responsible thing for Pennsylvania and find a solution to the state's transportation funding crisis this year.
"I've repeatedly called on the General Assembly to set aside partisanship and act on transportation funding solutions that will not just shore up Pennsylvania's crumbling infrastructure, but allow for real improvement in the years ahead," Governor Rendell said. "The people of Pennsylvania understand the importance of making the right transportation investments and can accept the need for greater funding."
In May, the state Transportation Advisory Commission issued a report that estimated Pennsylvania is short $3.5 billion a year in making investments that will keep highways, bridges and transit in a state of good repair.
"While I'm willing to work toward any sensible solution, I cannot accept a response that says now is not the right time to act," the Governor said. "Our citizens depend on safe, reliable and efficient transportation systems that allow them to go about their lives without the risk of closed or restricted bridges, crumbling roads or disrupted public transportation routes. We owe Pennsylvania residents our full-time attention on this issue right now."
Governor Rendell visited the Tilghman Street Bridge as part of a four-day, cross-state tour to highlight the massive transportation needs that impact every region of Pennsylvania. The Tilghman Street Bridge was built in 1929 and although it still carries more than 23,000 vehicles every day, the bridge is structurally deficient and more than $13 million in repairs are needed.
"The bottom line is that time is running out to save Pennsylvania's roads, bridges and transit systems," the Governor said. "Pennsylvania's future from job growth to getting our kids to school to caring for our older residents depends on taking courageous steps now to address this crisis."
Despite additional investments in recent years, Pennsylvania has 5,646 structurally deficient bridges – leading the nation in the number of such spans and exceeding the total number of similarly deficient bridges from Virginia to Maine, combined. There are more than 10,000 miles of state roads in need of repair, with 7,000 miles of those classified as in "poor condition."
In Lehigh County, there are 74 structurally deficient state-owned bridges and 93 miles of state-owned roads in 'poor' condition.
In May, Governor Rendell convened a Special Session of the General Assembly to address the funding needs. House Transportation Committee meetings were held across the state in May and June and House Bill 6, which includes some funding solutions, was introduced but not acted on. The Senate Transportation Committee has held numerous hearings on transportation infrastructure needs. Governor Rendell recently sent a letter to legislative leaders asking them to return to Harrisburg on Aug. 23 to continue the special session on transportation so that they can enact legislation before the scheduled October recess.Currently, the Senate is scheduled to return to Harrisburg on Sept. 20; the House returns Sept. 13, leaving both chambers with fewer than 20 working session days left before the end of the year.
Governor Rendell would prefer that legislators enact an oil company excess profit tax, but he said he will consider other proposals to generate the funds necessary to ensure a safe and efficient transportation infrastructure that will serve future generations.
"If state lawmakers are content to do nothing, then they must explain to their constituents why road or bridge projects will not get done and why routes will no longer be served by public transportation," Governor Rendell said. "Now is the time to serve the state's needs by addressing the transportation funding crisis this year."
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