Pennsylvania group recommends regional approach to state transportation solutions

News AASHTO Journal November 08, 2006
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A study recently released by a Pennsylvania public interest group is recommending a regional approach to help solve the commonwealth's transportation solutions, just weeks ahead of when a governor-appointed commission is expected to make its recommendations to the state legislature.

Earlier this year, Gov. Ed Rendell had to flex federal funds to keep the state's Philadelphia- and Pittsburgh-area public transportation systems from drastically cutting back service to millions of daily riders. After the crisis was averted, the governor appointed a commission to provide recommendations how best to fund the two systems. The recommendations are due to Rendell by mid-November, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported.

After polling residents, state and federal transportation professionals, the Pennsylvania Economy League (PEL) suggested the Legislature provide additional statewide funding to tackle current needs road and bridge maintenance, but also said a regional approach should be considered.

The Post-Gazette reported that the PEL says regionalism would mean several counties around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the southwest part of the state could band together like a metropolitan planning organization. The newspaper said PEL recommends state officials to look into "permitting regions to explore alternative financing mechanisms and regional taxing authority to address unique regional [transportation] needs."

Other states including Georgia, California, Illinois, Missouri and Texas have regional transportation districts to help pay for roads, bridges or transit systems. Those states might be used as models for Pennsylvania, LeeAnne M. Rogers, an economy league official, told the Post-Gazette.

According to the newspaper, PEL made three other transportation-funding recommendations:

• "Prudent use" of long-term borrowing, such as the sale of bonds, also could be used to pay for road and bridge projects;

• Public-private partnerships where a private company buys or leases a state-owned road, such as the turnpike or a tolled expressway, and they would pay for the upkeep with toll receipts; and

• Other funding increases such as higher gasoline, income, sales or realty transfer taxes, or higher vehicle registration fees. That money would be used solely for transportation and inflationary spending.

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