TribLIVE

| Neighborhoods

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Grata predicts gov's transit plans

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

It's not going to make everyone happy, but Gov. Tom Corbett says he's now prepared to support increased funding for transportation.

The long-anticipated announcement was reported this week by Brad Bumsted, veteran Harrisburg correspondent for the Tribune-Review, a sister publication of The Valley Independent.

Although most Democrat and Republican state lawmakers acknowledge that funding for roads and bridges has not kept up with needs, they've failed to do much about it thus far.

Gasoline and diesel fuel taxes, the cost of driver licenses, motor vehicle registration fees and other traditional Motor License Fund revenue sources haven't been raised for 15 years.

About six years ago, the state unsuccessfully tried to toll Interstate 80 and even sell the Pennsylvania Turnpike to foreign investors.

Then it obligated the Turnpike Commission to borrow $2.5 billion to provide PennDOT with a temporary infusion of cash and, since 2010, to turn over $450 million per year to support roads and public transit.

The last measures have left the turnpike facing $7.4 billion in accumulated debt, plus interest, and forced annual toll hikes of up to 10 percent.

They've put the nation's oldest toll road at risk of financial default and forced tolls high enough to send some traffic to free alternate routes.

Experts say the state needs up to $3 billion a year in more revenue to catch up and sustain sufficient funding to address structurally deficient bridges, deteriorating roads and struggling public transit.

Corbett refused to provide details about his plans to achieve higher transportation funding. He'll unveil them to lawmakers in January.

However, based on creditable sources developed over 40 years of writing about transportation, here's what they (and you) can expect:

Oil Franchise Tax

Combined with a 12-cents-a-gallon flat tax, the oil franchise tax adds 20.3 cents, for a total of 32.3 cent a gallon, making Pennsylvania's gas tax the 15th highest in the U.S.

The OFT is based on a wholesale “cap” of $1.25 per gallon, in place for years although gas has more than doubled in price.

Corbett told insiders he'd like to remove the cap in one fell swoop rather than in phases. Motorists would see about a 20-cent-per-gallon increase - a few cents higher than New York and California, currently No. 1 and No. 2 nationwide.

It would enable the governor to keep his no-tax-increase pledge because, technically, the OFT is assessed on corporations who write off a small part as a tax deduction.

Nonetheless, most of it is passed along to the consumers as a “user fee” rooted in principles that the more you drive, the more you pay, and the bigger the gas guzzler, the more you can afford to pay.

PennDOT could advance postponed projects and restore the transportation infrastructure to 21st Century standards, making travel more efficient and making the state more attractive to business, industry and tourism, - cornerstones of our economy.

Turnpike Impact

Corbett would repeal Act 44 requiring the Turnpike Commission to provide $450 million per year to PennDOT.

The move would free the Turnpike of the burden that threatens its future while enabling the toll road to continue as a viable, valuable transportation asset benefiting state commerce.

Toll Roads Expansion

A percentage of the oil franchise tax increase would be earmarked for this purpose, as it has in the past, enabling the Turnpike to reinvigorate a program enacted by the Legislature in the 1980s.

Specifically, Corbett wants to see construction of the next section of the Southern Beltway, 13.3 miles from I-79 at the Washington-Allegheny county line northwest to the existing 6-mile Findlay Connection leading to I-376 and Pittsburgh International Airport.

The $600 million project, whose preliminary design has been completed, would open thousands of acres to development, serve the Marcellus Shale industry and obviate PennDOT's need to add capacity to I-79 and the Parkway West.

Moreover, it would enhance the potential for a Corbett signature achievement - a $4 billion petrochemical industry in Beaver County, anchored by Royal Dutch Shell's proposed natural gas “cracker plant.”

Other

Because Corbett considers them to be basic privileges and wants to keep them affordable, driver licenses, motor vehicle registrations and most individual fees would remain unchanged, despite the fact they're some of the nation's lowest.

Increased funding for county and municipal governments would help them cope with costs of paving local streets and maintaining their own bridges, traffic signals etc.

The Corbett scenario also would address another major campaign pledge: Jobs.

Lots of 'em.

*

Thought du jour - Don't go into the “red” by spending too much on “Black Friday.”

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Mon Valley

  1. Monongahela uses modern technology to connect people to the city’s historic past
  2. Steelers training camp has California University link
  3. Brownsville ducky race postponed
  4. Scout restores Brownsville paddleboat’s smokestacks to earn Eagle award
  5. N. Charleroi man jailed in child sex case
  6. Washington Township firefighters make child’s dream come true
  7. North Belle Vernon man charged with making threatening calls to borough police