Is Political Leadership Rewarded or Ridiculed?

by Eric Wolf, General Manager

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 | Categories:

A state senator in Harrisburg recently stated that gas taxes and other user fees must be increased to pay to maintain roads and bridges.  He had the courage to say out loud what everyone in the state legislature already knows but is afraid to utter.  He will probably be rewarded for his bravery by being condemned and ridiculed across the Commonwealth.

The Facts

PennDOT is responsible for almost 40,000 miles of state-owned roads equal to total road mileage of New York, New Jersey, and all New England states combined.  County and municipal governments are responsible for almost twice as many miles.

Blair County's Act 44 allocation from PennDOT for highways and bridges was $4.1 million last year and will decrease by 63% to $1.5 million this year.

There is general agreement that Pennsylvania has a $3.5 billion gap in transportation funding that cannot be eliminated through belt-tightening or fancy accounting.

The Problem

I would agree that this is a tough year to propose an increase in gas taxes and other fees, but if it doesn’t happen now, if Harrisburg decides to kick this particular can down the road yet again, it could be years before we get a solution.  We are already falling farther and farther behind in maintaining our highways and bridges.  The more we delay, then the more they deteriorate and the more expensive it becomes to rehab them.

I don’t know about you, but I’m driving roads every day that looked fine last fall but need some serious work after the winter we just had.

The Solution

Modest increases in the gasoline tax, license and registration fees, along with public-private partnerships and tolling of new or expanded roads will address the problem without unfairly burdening any single geographic region or group of motorists.  Poll after poll reinforces the idea that if people can see a connection between user fees like a gas tax and improvements to roads and bridges, they will support an increase.

The question is “will we support our elected officials in Harrisburg in making a tough vote to solve this difficult problem?”