With Governor Rendell again threatening to "flex" millions of dollars in federal highway and bridge funds to urban transportation systems, State Senator David G. Argall (R-29) is introducing legislation prohibiting this action.
Senate Bill 1450 would strictly prohibit the State Transportation Commission from diverting any additional federal highway and bridge dollars to mass transit agencies, such as the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).
"Given the current state of our transportation system, it is imperative to keep federal highway dollars flowing to roads and bridges where they are desperately needed," Argall said. "Rural Pennsylvanians should not be asked to pay for mass transit systems in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh."
In 2005, House Resolution 538, sponsored by Argall, directed the Transportation Committee to conduct an investigation into the administration, management and financial operations of SEPTA. The legislation was spurred by Rendell diverting more than $250 million in federal highway dollars to bail out the Philadelphia mass transit system. The legislation also included a performance and financial audit of SEPTA.
In 2006, the investigative report was approved by the House Transportation Committee. The report confirmed that the state was the largest source of operating funds for Philadelphia's mass transit system.
In addition, the report also illustrated that SEPTA received a significant amount of state funding compared to transit authorities in other states and verified that local funding sources in the Philadelphia area provided less than one out of every 10 dollars needed to operate SEPTA, compared to the four out of 10 dollars provided by the state.
Since 2006, the Pennsylvania Transportation Funding and Reform Commission has confirmed that Pennsylvania's highway and bridge systems were in crisis and needed to be addressed before the conditions further deteriorated.
"If federal highway and bridge dollars are diverted to mass transit agencies, more of our rural road and bridge projects will be left unfunded resulting in their closings," Argall added. "This would have a serious impact within our local communities. My legislation would ensure that these federal funds continue to be authorized for these projects and these projects only."
Argall's legislation (Senate Bill 1450) is currently being circulated for co-sponsorship.