Noting the six months of inaction since Gov. Tom Corbett's blue ribbon transportation commission released its final report, Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) Tuesday joined county and legislative leaders in Pittsburgh to call on the governor to lead on transportation infrastructure and mass transit investment Pennsylvania.
"On the eve of the six-month anniversary of the release of the recommendations from the governor's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission, we are still awaiting a plan for transportation from Gov. Corbett," said Sen. Costa. "The governor's own transportation commission issued its report, and it is his responsibility to lead. We don't believe Pennsylvanians should have to wait any longer."
"It has been more than a year since Tom Corbett became governor, and half a year since his commission gave him a detailed plan for transportation funding," said Rep. Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny), the House Democratic Leader. "We are lucky that so far it's simply a matter of crumbling roads and weight-restricted bridges, but we are driving on borrowed time. If nothing is done, it will get much worse. Lives are at risk."
Sen. Costa said PennDOT statistics show that there are more than six million trips daily across Allegheny County bridges that are rated either functionally obsolete or structurally deficient, and more than 178,000 trips across bridges that have temporary supports or weight restrictions in place.
Sen. Costa said an investment in infrastructure will create jobs. In 2010, Pennsylvania ranked seventh in the nation for job creation and has now slipped to 25th in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report issued last week.
Last week, Senate Democrats also laid out their budget priorities in anticipation of another round of job-crushing cuts from the Corbett Administration during the governor's upcoming budget address. The Senate plan calls for creating jobs through investments in our economy for infrastructure development and improvements, as well as targeted training and education programs for a quality workforce.
"Gov. Corbett's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission report laid out options for the governor to choose, including uncapping the Oil Company Franchise Tax and raising licensure fees to support investments in highways, bridges and mass transit," said Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia), Democratic Appropriations Committee Chair. "The time for studies, commissions, and conversing is behind us. It's time to act. I urge the governor to take action and indicate to the legislature how he wants to move forward."
"Gov. Corbett can move our economy forward — or stall it if he provides leadership to address our well-documented transportation problems," said Rep. Joseph Markosek (D-Allegheny) Minority Chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
Sen. John Wozniak (D-Cambria), who serves as the Democratic Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee and is a member of the state Transportation Commission, said "Pennsylvania's two biggest challenges right now are its crumbling transportation infrastructure and the stagnant economy. It has been months since the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission released its report and it's time for leadership from the administration on a plan that will keep drivers safe and keep commerce rolling."
"We each know personally about the need for transportation funding," said Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny), the House Democratic Caucus Chairman. "We know it as we swerve to avoid potholes, are forced to detour due to closed bridges, or wait in the cold for buses. Each individual story adds up to a story about our economic vitality. If we can't move goods and people around because our bridges won't bear the weight of trucks and our buses are idled, our economic growth will stall."
Corbett's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission issued its report on August 1, 2011. The commission was tasked with indentifying an additional $2.5 billion annually to address the transportation funding shortfall. In addition to its funding proposal, the Commission made suggestions for modernizing transportation.
The report noted that funding in Pennsylvania falls far short of needs, and points out specifically that the report is "about more than potholes—the issues at hand affect safety, our economy, and the environment, all of which shape the quality of life and ease of commerce in Pennsylvania."
Sen. Costa and his legislative colleagues said they await word from the governor on how he wants to proceed, but more delay creates even more problems. Pennsylvania maintains the dubious distinction of having the highest number of structurally-deficient bridges in the country and the most miles of road in "poor" condition. An estimated 300 bridges are added to the structurally deficient list each year.