Highway and bridge improvement plan is long overdue

The state of Pennsylvania has 4,000 structurally deficient bridges and about 10,000 miles of substandard highways.

That is not news to most state residents, who can feel every inch of the deficiencies when they drive. Quite frankly, much of Pennsylvania’s road and bridge network stands out for how in need it is.

State Sen. E. Eugene Yaw, a Loyalsock Township Republican who represents much of our region, is championing a Senate bill that would change all that.

The bill calls for state expenditures of $2.5 billion over five years and was approved by the Senate 45-5 in June, rare bipartisan support for an issue in Pennsylvania. The state House has yet to weigh in and Gov. Corbett’s version calls for $1.8 billion in expenditures.

To pay the costs, the bill would uncap the oil franchise tax that has been at $1.25 a gallon since 1983, increase vehicle registration costs from $36 to $52 annually, and increase the four-year license renewal fee from $29.50 to $50.50.

That doesn’t seem like a heavy price to meet a critical need.

And the plan has a bigtime modernization element for our region, the proposed Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway Project which would add 13 miles of road from Selinsgrove to Route 147 in Northumberland, an improvement we shouldn’t need to detail for area motorists.

Unlike many state issues, the state’s highways shouldn’t be a partisan, political matter.

Everyone can concede the state’s highway and bridge system needs a jolt of improvement and modernization. And the cost for solving the problem will only inflate the longer the solution is neglected.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, a Bradford Woods Republican, indicated this past week that a vote on a transportation bill is likely this fall.

He said while he does not fully support Gov. Corbett’s version of a transportation plan, the governor has requested some sort of transportation bill action and he will honor that request.

We are hoping for something more than staged action on a transportation bill. The issues is much too important for that.

The solution is available and the time to act is now. We hope this is a serious part of the Legislature’s to-do list this fall.

It’s long overdue.