Transportation reform must happen in the state’s fall session

State transportation reform was linked to liquor store privatization during recent state budget talks and therefore failed to pass. But the numbers suggest that there better be a new transportation bill soon like this fall’s session to take care of Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges.

There are 25,000 state-owned bridges. Their average age is more than 50 years old. In Lycoming County alone, there are 108 structurally-deficient bridges, 65 locally-owned and 43 state-owned. A study group analyzed transportation issues in Pennsylvania and determined it would take a $2.5 billion annual proposal over 10 years to heal the ailing roads and bridges.

There are 63 projects that won’t happen if a transportation bill isn’t passed.

“Roads and bridges are falling apart,” state Rep. Garth Everett, a Muncy Republican, summed up recently.

So why no transportation bill? For starters, attaching it to the controversial liquor privatization bill drew more opposition in the state House than the bill might have otherwise encountered.

The bill also called for an increase in the state gasoline tax at the pump, which drew opposition in many quarters.

We ourselves have opposed state gasoline tax increases at the pump in the past. But the state and local transportation needs have reached a crisis stage and the costs that are now high will become even greater in the future if the necessary road and bridge updates and repairs aren’t done.

The transportation budget is separate from the state General Fund and the highway and bridge needs are a priority that should cross party lines.

That would seem to make transportation reform a reasonable priority for the state Legislature’s fall session. It better be.