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Bipartisan proposal would raise federal gas tax to rescue transportation

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

It took bipartisanship for Pennsylvania to address its transportation infrastructure crisis and now a pair of U.S. senators are hoping for the same thing at the national level.

Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., today proposed raising the federal gasoline tax by 12 cents over two years and then indexing the tax to inflation. Their proposal would rescue the nearly bankrupt Highway Trust Fund and prevent a shutdown of federally funded road and bridge projects later this year.

The federal gas tax has been 18.4 cents since 1993. It does not generate more revenue when gasoline prices rise because it is a flat tax. Sens. Murphy and Corker said the tax’s buying power has shrunk to 63 percent of what it was 21 years ago.

Murphy:
“For too long, Congress has shied away from taking serious action to update our country’s aging infrastructure. We’re currently facing a transportation crisis that will only get worse if we don’t take bold action to fund the Highway Trust Fund. By modestly raising the federal gas tax, we can address a crippling economic liability for this country — the inability to finance long-term improvements to our crumbling national infrastructure.”

Corker:
“Congress should be embarrassed that it has played chicken with the Highway Trust Fund and allowed it to become one of the largest budgeting failures in the federal government. If Americans feel that having modern roads and bridges is important then Congress should have the courage to pay for it.”

The pair noted that gas tax increases were approved by Presidents Reagan, Clinton and George H.W. Bush.

Their proposal already has drawn support from AAA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Building America’s Future, International Union of Operating Engineers and the Associated General Contractors of America.

Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, who co-chairs Building America’s Future, said, “Instead of sitting on their hands as they watch America’s roads and bridges further deteriorate, Senator Murphy and Senator Corker have the courage to step up and offer a real solution … Without more revenue, the Trust Fund will run out of money in August and thousands of critical projects will be cancelled or delayed all over the country and nearly 600,000 jobs could be lost. This would be a major hit to America’s economy and cannot be allowed to happen.”

Whether this proposal has a snowball’s chance remains to be been. Here’s one sort-of-optimistic assessment.

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menatworkRoute 28 inbound will be down to a single lane from 8 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday after the William Raymond Prom Memorial Bridge (nee 31st Street). The right lane will be closed as will the ramp to East Ohio Street.

Route 51 repaving was to begin today between Coal Valley Road and Worthington Avenue, causing single-lane traffic through July 30. The overall project calls for paving from Coal Valley to the Elizabeth Bridge, with completion expected in December.

A section of Route 88 in Monongahela will be closed weekdays starting today for repairs to a slide. The road will be closed near Railroad Street from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through next Wednesday, with the posted detour using Park Avenue-Route 481 and Coyle Curtain Road. The slide along Pigeon Creek is being corrected to prepare for a repaving project.

Lane restrictions on Route 837-State Street in West Elizabeth will begin Thursday, with alternating one-way traffic under the bridge that connects northbound and southbound Route 51 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through next Wednesday.

Cleaning and inspection of the Birmingham Bridge and its ramps will cause lane closures at times from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. starting Thursday and continuing through June 27.

Overnight crack and joint sealing operations will cause periodic lane restrictions after 7 p.m. weekdays through June 27 on these roads: Ohio River Boulevard from the West End Bridge to Marshall Avenue, North Side; Route 50 from the Washington County line to Washington Pike in South Fayette; and Route 50 from Mayer Street in Collier to Hope Street in Carnegie. Restrictions end by 6 a.m.

Paving will begin Monday on Route 228 in Butler County. The work will occur after 9 a.m. daily between Pittsburgh Street and Saxony Golf Course and then move on to Route 356 in Sarver.

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