Pennsylvania's transportation issues expected to persist
By Tom Fontaine
Published: Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Contractors are encouraged by a new law that allows private firms to partner with governments to fix, build and profit from public infrastructure.
But they don't think it will solve Pennsylvania's transportation problems.
“I think it will be a valuable tool in the toolbox and it definitely is an innovative way to help fund transportation projects. But it won't be the panacea or end-all-be-all to solve the funding problems,” said Richard J. Barcaskey, executive director of the Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania.
Private firms invest in transportation projects they think could turn a profit, not for altruistic reasons, Barcaskey said.
“I think we'll see a lot of activity,” PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said.
Legislators passed the public-private partnership law, known as Act 88, last summer. PennDOT officials spent the rest of the year crafting policies to administer the program.
A seven-member board will examine and approve proposed public-private transportation projects.
Bryan Kendro, director of the Office of Policy & Public-Private Partnerships, said no firms had submitted formal applications as of late last year, but state leaders have received a “decent amount of feedback” since the law's passage.
Schoch said the state modeled its policy after Virginia's. There, private groups invest billions in public transportation projects. The state government covered just $400 million of the $1.4 billion cost to build four lanes along a 14-mile stretch of Interstate 495, known as the Capital Beltway. The private investor, Fluor-Transurban, will collect tolls for 75 years.
Former Rep. Rick Geist of Altoona, who introduced Pennsylvania's law, said investors could look for a similar deal in exchange for money to finance improvements along busy I-95 in the Philadelphia area. In Western Pennsylvania, he said, private investment could help advance the Mon-Fayette Expressway or Southern Beltway projects, or make improvements to reduce congestion on the Parkway East or West.
Not all projects are tied to roads.
“We might become the first Act 88 project in the state,” Port Authority CEO Steve Bland said.
EQT and the Heinz Foundation spent nearly $300,000 on a study that showed it could cost $20.8 million up front to begin converting a portion of Port Authority's bus fleet to natural gas. The move could save at least $3 million a year.
Bland said the cash-strapped agency cannot afford to pursue a conversion without private investment.
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Toyota plans to reveal Camry update soon
- Modern ‘educational’ gifts entertain STEM kids
- FedEx to raise ground, home delivery rates
- AT&T reduces fees for people who bring own devices
- Caesars says online bets might hurt land-based casinos
- Pennsylvania, other states considering bids to host Boeing 777X production
- Federal regulator OKs Peoples Gas’ acquisition of Equitable Gas
- Area jobless rate slips on decline in workforce
- Positive reports add to investor fears the Fed is nearing end of its stimulus
- Figures rise on growth
- Crown Castle to grow, adding Mylan building