State of Transportation in PA

10,000 Friends Salutes the

Comprehensive Transportation Bill Signed by Governor Corbett as Act 89

 Several Long-Sought 10,000 Friends Priorities Become Law


10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania commends the Republican and Democratic leadership of the Pennsylvania General Assembly for reaching a reasonable compromise and passing the transportation bill, HB1060. We applaud Governor Corbett for signing the bill into law, as Act 89, while traveling the Commonwealth Monday.

With the signing of Act 89, critically needed funding can now begin to flow to key transportation and transit projects throughout the Commonwealth.  Roughly 23% of all funding in this bill — $2.2 billion over the next five years — goes to much-needed transit projects. In addition, the bill makes a large commitment of approximately $700 million over the next five years in a first-ever Multi-Modal Fund. 

10,000 Friends is very pleased to see several of our top priorities included in the new law. We strongly advocated that at least 25% of all new funding go to transit – to improve service for those who rely on transit to get to work or school or the doctor’s office.  It is sound public policy to encourage greater use of public transit, as our transit systems efficiently meet the mobility needs of thousands daily, while conserving energy and providing the best means of reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality. And paying for these transit investments at least in part through an additional dedicated slice of the state Sales & Use tax, another 10,000 Friends priority, has also become law in Act 89—with a minimum amount of $450 million annually beginning in year 2022-2023.

We were an early advocate and supporter of creating a new Multi-Modal Fund, building on both the legacy of the Community Transportation pilot we created and championed as well as on our vision of promoting better land use, and we are tremendously gratified that a first-ever Multi-Modal Fund has been established.  Insisting that the new Multi-Modal Fund be adequately funded to make robust investments, we led in singularly pressing House and Senate leaders for increased Multi-Modal Funding — and indeed the Fund has grown from the $60 million annually first proposed to $151 million provided annually when Act 89 is fully implemented.  This increased funding will result in many more bicycling and pedestrian projects than previously possible — along with streetscape and main street improvements, and opportunities to build new trail networks, safer crosswalks, and safe routes to schools.  In a state where 12% of traffic fatalities involve pedestrian and bicyclists, especially senior citizens, this funding will make our streets, highways, and neighborhoods safer while creating more vibrant, connected, healthier communities. Thus 10,000 Friends believes this compromise law is a major step towards making the long term investments needed in our transit systems and other community-based transportation options for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Act 89 is an enormous improvement over the bill that stalled in the House at the end of June.  As a direct result of our advocacy, an additional $285 million in funding for the Multi-Modal Fund (over five years) was secured that did not exist in the June version of the bill.  We also strongly supported, with our close partners, the strategy that resulted in more than a $1.2 billion increase (over five years) in additional funding for transit not included in the June version of the bill.  These increases represent a real victory for those of us who argued that it was worth fighting for – and negotiating – a better bill.

No one wants to pay more in gas taxes or vehicle registration fees. But access to a world-class transportation system is not an entitlement—it costs money. We should regard paying for our transportation network like we already accept paying for all the other networks and utilities essential to connecting us to modern life, including telephone, cell phone, internet access, cable television,  electricity, water, and waste disposal services.  Since the revenue produced by gas taxes at previous rates was not sufficient even to pay for the repair and maintenance of existing roads and bridges that previous generations had paid to build, increased investment was necessary.

This is not a perfect law by any means.  We wish it included more funding for community transportation, more explicitly prioritized road and bridge maintenance, and explicitly linked project investments with sound land-use and land-planning principles. But it is an important step forward. For 10,000 Friends and those committed to building a prosperous and healthy Pennsylvania, this act is a hopeful sign that despite our much too polarized politics, it is possible to secure the resources needed to build a vision of a better future for Pennsylvanians—a safe, well-maintained, well-connected multi-modal transportation system that provides all Pennsylvanians with more choices and better access to jobs, shops, schools, recreation, and other valued destinations and creates a more prosperous, vibrant, healthy Pennsylvania with the infrastructure needed to take advantage of new opportunities in the 21st Century.


Other Key Transportation Acts and Reports:

Act 44:

In 2007, the Pennsylvania legislature passed Act 44 which laid out a scenario for generating increased funding for mass transit and highway and bridge repair throughout the state and emphasized the importance of prioritizing "fix-it-first" projects.  The central funding mechanism for that plan authorized the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to toll Interstate 80 to raise the level of funding available in the state. 

However, in September 2008, the Federal Highway Administration rejected Pennsylvania's request to toll I -80 for the second time. Under the existing 50 year public-public concession deal between the Turnpike and the state, the state will receive sharply reduced payments (from $900 million to $450 million) starting July 1, 2010 if I-80 tolling fails to be implemented. This will particularly impact dedicated funding for transit and the already strapped resources for bridge and road maintenance and repair. 

Transportation Reform Principles

In its final 2006 report, the Pennsylvania Transportation Funding and Reform Commission noted that increasing funding for transportation without reform would be meaningless.  Adding new highway capacity as a result of continuing sprawl development would continue to create additional repair and maintenance responsibilities. 

The key recommendations made to address the impact of sprawl on the transportation funding commission were: 

  • Link land use and transportation through the implementation of 'smart transportation' design practices and by preconditioning major capacity improvements on a community land use/transportation vision that provides for sustainable investments.
  •  Develop an incentive based funding program to link land use and multimodal community investments through collaboration with partners including municipalities, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Rural Planning Organizations and other interested parties." (Pennsylvania Transportation Funding and Reform Commission Report, November 2006. Page 61 & 62.)