A coalition of transportation agencies Monday issued the latest alert on a looming transportation crisis, driven in part by the law that ordered the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to send $450 million a year to PennDOT.
The Southeast Partnership for Mobility, which includes the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA), the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and PennDOT, weighed in with a report labeling the state’s transportation funding system unsustainable.
Among other things, it recommended that lawmakers secure statewide public transit funding and pass legislation to allow new local revenue sources to be invested in projects to spur regional growth.
PennDOT Secretary and Turnpike Commission Chair Leslie S. Richards, who partnered with SEPTA Chair Pasquale T. Deon Sr. to lead the Mobility Coalition study, said its results point to pressing needs for a stable statewide transportation funding stream.
“We are at a critical juncture in understanding just how damaging and deep the risks to our statewide transportation funding pool really are,” Richards said. “This report demonstrates the importance of our mass transit assets now and into the future.”
The state turned to the nation’s oldest super highway to provide an annual levy to fund PennDOT in 2007, under Act 44 of 2007, after plans to toll Interstate 80 failed. Since 2013, the entire payment has gone to underwrite mass transit, largely in Philadelphia and Allegheny County.
Officials in the transit agencies, who have been warned that their state capital funding will drop dramatically next year, are concerned the Act 44 funding stream may not last.
Last month, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released a scathing audit that warned that the Turnpike Commission could be headed for bankruptcy, absence legislative action to remove the mandate that has contributed to ever increasing tolls, declining traffic and an $11.8 billion debt at the turnpike.
Although the new report focuses on transportation needs in Southeastern Pennsylvania, it echoes DePasquale’s conclusions that the current funding formula is not sustainable.