Local senator comments on transportation funding plan

The state Senate last week approved a funding plan aimed at upgrading transportation infrastructure.

Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Senate Transportation Chairman John Rafferty, R-Collegeville, will increase Pennsylvania’s annual transportation investment by $2.5 billion. It follows the recommendations made by the Governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission.

The plan also increases funding for the state’s Dirt and Gravel Road Program from $5 million to $35 million.

“The transportation funding plan approved today by the Senate was supported across the board by the business community, chambers of commerce, engineers, contractors, AFSCME, the agriculture community and many others,” Sen. E. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, said in a news release.

The bill will raise needed revenue through a number of sources including adjusting outdated vehicle and driver fees for inflation, surcharging fines for drivers who violate traffic laws, uncapping the Oil Company Franchise Tax over three years, and achieving significant cost savings by modernizing many state Department of Transportation services.

The plan will invest:

$2.5 billion in Pennsylvania’s highways and bridges, transit agencies, railways, airports, ports and bicycle and pedestrian programs by the fifth year of the plan;

About $1.9 billion for state and local highways and bridges;

About $510 million for Pennsylvania’s 36 urban and rural transit agencies;

About $115 million for railways, airports, ports and bicycle and pedestrian programs.

“As part of this funding plan, several transportation-related projects throughout northeastern and central Pennsylvania will receive needed financial support,” Yaw said. “This includes the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway Project, a project that has sat dormant for almost 40 years. This bill will create needed jobs throughout my district, especially in the trades and construction industry.

“I am hopeful that when signed by Gov. (Tom) Corbett, this bill will also advance the needs of our agriculture industry and improve the competitiveness of our dairy industry with other states. As a result of highway weight differential between states, Pennsylvania dairy operations are forced to put out bids with smaller loads, requiring the customer to unload more trucks and pay higher hauling costs. This has hurt us competitively to the point where we have lost hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs to New York state.”