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PennDOT's crock: Shhhhhhh! Secret!

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Friday, June 21, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
 

In PennDOT's view, Pennsylvanians who'll foot the bill for additional transportation funding don't deserve to know how it would be spent — only lawmakers do.

They're finding out via a password-protected, legislative-eyes-only PennDOT website that projects road and bridge funding under both Gov. Corbett's $1.8 billion proposal and the $2.5 billion Senate-approved plan now before the House.

PennDOT asked legislators not to make public the password for the secret site and has refused Associated Press requests for the information it contains. The agency's secrecy “justification”? The spending plans are just drafts, not final.

That's absurd: All legislation is a “draft” that can change until it's passed and signed into law — and the ramifications aren't off-limits for public consideration during that process. Transportation funding should be no different.

What PennDOT's really hiding is political back-scratching: It's secretly showing lawmakers what spending they can expect in their districts, depending on how they vote. Yet it's the most urgent, most beneficial fixes and improvements, not back-room deals, that should guide transportation funding priorities — and the public has every right to a say in setting them.

PennDOT's secrecy evidences utter disdain for openness, transparency and the public's right to know. The longer it maintains that secrecy, the less trust taxpayers will have in any transportation funding package that lawmakers pass — assuming, that is, that the public still trusts Harrisburg at all.

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