Pundits and other observers are spilling out volumes about the current activity in Congress on a possible long-term transportation funding bill, but as The Christian Science Monitor reports, the proposals on the table fall far short of dealing with the nation's decaying infrastructure and inadequate funding:
House and Senate negotiators may be weeks or even months away from reaching a compromise bill to fund America's transportation needs. But transportation experts don't need to wait for the final product, set to be hammered out by a conference committee beginning Tuesday afternoon. Whatever bill emerges, they say, will once again succeed only in kicking the can of sustainably funding American infrastructure down an ever-more-rutted road.
Most people don't realize that gasoline taxes haven't been raised since 1993 at the federal level and 1997 in our state, and do not grow with inflation. In Pennsylvania, a gallon of gas that cost $2 a few years ago had about 51 cents of federal and state taxes applied to it. When gas went to $4, that gallon produced -- yes, 51 cents in taxes. Fifty-one cents was worth 51 cents in 1993. Today, adjusted for inflation, it is worth 32 cents.
If you buy a $1 candy bar in Allegheny County, you pay 7 cents in sales tax. If the price of the candy bar rose to $2, you would pay 14 cents. The sales tax generates more revenue as inflation occurs. The gasoline tax does not.
Moreover, better fuel economy and alternative fuels vehicles have reduced the number of gallons purchased, which helps to explain why are roads are getting worse and a quarter of our bridges are structurally deficient. Neither Congress nor the Pennsylvania Legislature is close to fixing what is an obsolete, failing method of funding transportation improvements.
On to today's traffic alerts.
A BIGGIE: PennDOT will close the westbound Parkway East in Downtown Pittsburgh this weekend for resurfacing and is warning drivers to expect big delays and consider alternate routes. The highway will be closed from Grant Street to the Fort Pitt Bridge approaches at 10 p.m. Friday. It will reopen by 5 a.m. Monday. Several ramps also will close.
Westbound traffic will be channeled into one lane to exit at Grant Street and follow Fort Pitt Boulevard to the Stanwix Street on-ramp to return to the parkway. Drivers headed for the Fort Duquesne Bridge will continue to the on-ramp from Commonwealth Place. PennDOT is suggesting that drivers bound for the Parkway North use Crosstown Boulevard and the Veterans Bridge.
These ramps will be closed, in part to assist flow on the detour: Grant Street on-ramp to westbound Parkway East; eastbound Parkway East off-ramp to Grant Street; Boulevard of the Allies on-ramp to the westbound Parkway East; and Smithfield Street ramp to Grant Street. The work is part of an $8.7 million project to improve about 26 ramps and road segments connecting Downtown to interstate highways.
Detours are scheduled on Interstate 79 in Washington County at the Route 40 overpass. Northbound traffic will be detoured at Lone Pine from 8 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday, following Routes 19 north, 40 east, 519 north and I-70 west to get back on I-79. Southbound traffic will be detoured at Laboratory from 9 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday, using off- and on-ramps to return to the mainline. More work is coming next week; we'll have those details for you in a later post.
From Allegheny County: The McKinney Road Bridge in North Park is closed for deck repairs, installation of scour protection and abutment repairs. It is scheduled to reopen at 5 p.m. on May 31. The posted 1.5-mile detour is as follows: Motorists traveling on Pearce Mill Road will be detoured west onto Brown Road, south onto Kummer Road, and then back to McKinney Road. Those traveling east on McKinney Road will follow the same detour in reverse.
Paving and other work will cause alternating one-way traffic on Rodi Road between Frankstown and McCrady roads from 8 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Saturday.
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