Fightin' words on transportation funding

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

Gov. Tom Corbett’s recent statements promising a major transportation funding initiative by this month or early next month weren’t enough to stop state House Democrats from taking potshots on Wednesday. Some excerpts from a news release:

While Pennsylvanians continue to wait for the governor to lead in the transportation crisis, House Democratic leaders reintroduced a package of bills modeled after the recommendations made by Gov. Tom Corbett’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission in August 2011. The governor has yet to act on those recommendations.

“As we begin a new, two-year legislative session, we remain hopeful that Governor Corbett finally will show some leadership on this issue that is of paramount importance to Pennsylvania residents, motorists, workers and businesses,” said Democratic Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny. “This is a public safety crisis, but it’s also an economic crisis. A modern, reliable transportation system is critical to creating and sustaining thousands of jobs and to enabling businesses to remain competitive and successful.”

Democratic Whip Mike Hanna and Democratic Caucus Chairman Dan Frankel, who sponsored the bills during the 2011-12 session, reintroduced the legislation as House Bills 12, 13 and 14 in the new 2013-14 session.

“Governor Corbett has had nearly a year and a half to implement the recommendations from his own advisory commission,” said Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre. “Instead, he chose to focus on initiatives that would suppress voter turnout, give the gas industry a free pass to drill without proper environmental restrictions, dole out corporate welfare while children are left in underfunded public schools, and hand over control of the successful Pennsylvania Lottery to a foreign corporation.

“It’s clear that the governor’s priorities do not include the hardworking middle class that drives our economy,” Hanna said.

Not a lot of bipartisan spirit in those remarks. If anything’s going to get done to improve our roads, bridges and transit systems, Democrats and Republicans are going to have to make nice.

Tolling is our friend? Meeting in Miami, the board of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association said it would launch an “aggressive” campaign this year “to highlight the benefits of tolling.” The group touts tolls as a solution to ongoing transportation funding problems that our causing our roads and bridges to deterioriate.

Patrick D. Jones, IBTTA Executive Director and CEO:

“We’re launching this campaign to ensure that tolling is a key part of the discussions in Congress and elsewhere around the country on how to fund America’s transportation system. IBTTA’s Moving America Forward public awareness campaign will make the case for the tolling industry’s permanent seat at the table when future transportation funding options are being considered.”

Citing a recent report of rising traffic fatalities for the first nine months of 2012, AAA wants the federal government to induce states to pass safety improvements in the coming year by plying them with money.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported last month that traffic deaths rose 7.1 percent in the first three quarters of the year, reversing years of declining fatalities. An estimated 25,580 people died in crashes from January through September. To put it in perspective, the number of crash victims is roughly double the number of homicides in the U.S.

AAA wants federal incentives to states for laws that ban texting while driving, improve teen driver safety and require ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers.

Brian Newbacher, director of public affairs for AAA East Central:

“The recent federal report that traffic deaths increased during the first nine months of 2012 is a reminder that safety gains are not inevitable and that continued legislative action is necessary to help reduce fatal crashes.”

Also on the wish list is for Pennsylvania to approve a primary seat belt law. Currently, you can be cited for failure to wear your belt only if pulled over for some other offense. Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia are among 18 states without a primary seat belt law.

The state’s new Public Private Transportation Partnership has voted to solicit proposals for a private takeover of the 511PA traffic monitoring network. 511PA delivers traffic updates by phone (at 511) and on the web (, including views from hundreds of traffic cameras along major highways. The board also invited proposals to take over the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Roadway Information Program.

Here’s Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch’s comment:

“I feel strongly that having traveler information available in a variety of ways, and utilizing the latest technologies, is a crucial service travelers have come to expect and deserve. With innovation in the marketplace happening at a lightning pace, a public-sector entity such as PennDOT cannot take full advantage of the latest advancements, so we will challenge the private sector to provide us with a solution that allows us to do just that.”

511 is quite useful but there’s plenty of room for improvement, especially in the reliability and placement of cameras.

Lane closures are possible on the inbound Parkway East at the bridge over Commercial Street between Edgewood-Swissvale and the Squirrel Hill Tunnels during inspections from 6 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

@pgtraffic on Twitter

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.