Earlier this month we were reminded of the condition of the roads and bridges in the Commonwealth when Governor Tom Corbett unveiled his budget plan.
Most likely what caught many eyes was the strong possibility that we could face an 82 percent increase in the state gas tax by 2018. This news came as gas prices in Pennsylvania are once again creeping towards the $4 per-gallon mark.
The reality is that Corbett is calling for a $1.8 billion increase in transportation funding in his 2013 proposed budget. He called for doing away with the cap on the “oil company franchise tax” to allow it to rise by about 28.5 cents over five years in three installments. That increase would most likely be passed on to motorists at the pump, though state officials said gasoline dealers might absorb part of it. Yeah right.
His proposal also is asking for a one-cent-a-gallon reduction in the liquid fuels tax for each of the next two years. It currently is 12 cents per gallon. The changes would reflect a rise in the state gas tax rise the current 32.3 cents per gallon to 58.8 cents if all of the increases were passed along to drivers. The last time the state gas tax was increased was in 1997.
If passed, the additional transportation funding would produce about $510 million in the first year and $1.8 over the next five years to repair roads and bridges and maintain transit systems.
According to a report, the amount of roadway in poor condition rose from 7,500 miles in 2007 to more than 10,000 in 2012. The state has more than 4,000 “structurally deficient” bridges.
Under the proposal $1.2 billion would go to repairing state-maintained roads and bridges and $200 million for locally-owned roads and bridges by the end of the fifth year.
The proposal calls for $200 million to go the public transit by the fifth year.
The legislature will now debate the specifics and render decisions regarding the budget. Frugality is good but we need to tend to the maintenance of our infrastructure before it becomes too expensive to do so (if it hasn’t already).
We are not immune to the problem as we find out in today’s edition of the Town and Country.
The Gravel Pike (Route 29) bridge over the Hosensack Creek has been downgraded from an unrestricted weight limit to a 52,000-pound (80,000-pound for combination vehichles) limit. This will affect local businesses and industries as trucks may need to find an alternate route.
During a recent engineering study, the 1937 vintage bridge was found to be in worse shape than when studied earlier and PennDOT officials needed to take action.
Hopefully, the negative affect will only last a short while. The bridge, along with a smaller bridge located north on Gravel Pike, are scheduled to be replaced this year. Most of the preliminary paperwork is done and we shouldn’t have to wait long before we begin to see activity on the replacements.
The project is scheduled to go out for bids in early 2013 with construction expected to start in June and conclude in late fall.
We can hope that everybody stays on schedule and makes this a short-term inconvenience instead of a long-term debacle that will end up draining badly needed money from local businesses, industry and, ultimately, the people.