Transportation Funding Crisis

by Eric Wolf, General Manager

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 | Categories:

Loretta Lynn sang, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” But if she lived in Pennsylvania, she might be singing, “Everybody wants good highways, but nobody wants to pay for them.”

Funding gap

When the federal government denied the tolling of Interstate 80, it left a huge gap in Pennsylvania’s transportation budget. Since then a handful of courageous legislators in Harrisburg have been trying to address the issue before the Commonwealth falls even farther behind on maintaining our transportation system. What’s stopping them? In today’s toxic political world, it’s tough to vote for any kind of funding in-crease, even something as straightforward as an increase in the gas tax to repair roads and bridges.

Skewed priorities

Here is the fallacy about increasing the gas tax. Many people believe that the tipping point for gasoline may have been $3.50 per gallon. So we Americans are willing to spend $3.50 a gallon, even though much of the money enriches the coffers of foreign interests who range from unfriendly to downright threatening to our nation. At the same time, if an elected official dares to suggest an increase in the gas tax or other fees to fix roads and bridges (making them safer) and to improve public transportation (reducing our oil dependency), they get death threats.

We are acting as if we believe that sending dollars to our enemies is okay but keeping pennies here at home is evil.

Where are our priorities?

I’ve said this many times - this is not just an economic issue. It’s an issue of national security.

But I digress.

Keystone Coalition

A coalition of transportation interests across the state have come together including highway, public transportation, rail, air and notably the State Chamber of Commerce. One of the coalition’s aims is to publicly support elected officials in making a difficult vote.

Most state legislators know what they need to do. They know that the crisis is real and imminent. They just need to know they won’t be hung in effigy back home for doing the right thing.