Northeast Times

Lawmakers call for more transportation funding

From left: State Rep. Brendan Boyle, Abing­ton Town­ship Com­mis­sion­er Madeleine Dean and state Rep. Kev­in Boyle hold a news con­fer­ence in a park­ing lot a few feet from busy Route 232 to call for more state fund­ing for trans­port­a­tion needs. (Tom War­ing)

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State Rep. Brendan Boyle said there’s been “deaf­en­ing si­lence” from Gov. Tom Corbett since a blue rib­bon com­mis­sion last Au­gust made re­com­mend­a­tions to ad­dress Pennsylvania’s trans­port­a­tion is­sues.

Boyle (D-170th dist.) last week joined his broth­er, Rep. Kev­in Boyle (D-172nd dist.), and Abing­ton Town­ship Com­mis­sion­er Madeleine Dean at a news con­fer­ence in a park­ing lot ad­ja­cent to busy Route 232. Dean is the Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate in next week’s spe­cial elec­tion in the east­ern Mont­gomery County-based 153rd Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict.

The Demo­crats want Corbett, a Re­pub­lic­an, to fund fixes to struc­tur­ally de­fi­cient bridges and im­prove­ments to roads, high­ways and mass trans­it.

In his budget ad­dress in Feb­ru­ary, the gov­ernor said it was “crit­ic­al” that the state tackle trans­port­a­tion is­sues, adding that the prob­lems are so big that they must be ad­dressed out­side the budget pro­cess.

The Trans­port­a­tion Fund­ing Ad­vis­ory Com­mis­sion on Aug. 1 called for the fol­low­ing fund­ing by 2020: $1.3 bil­lion for trans­it, $1.2 bil­lion for bridges, $465 mil­lion to ex­pand the ca­pa­city of ma­jor high­ways and $388 mil­lion for loc­al and state high­ways.

“Let’s act now,” Brendan Boyle said.

The com­mis­sion offered fund­ing solu­tions that in­cluded hikes in fuel taxes and vehicle re­gis­tra­tion and driver’s li­cense fees and elim­in­a­tion of the cap on the oil com­pany fran­chise tax.

Those re­com­mend­a­tions were made more than eight months ago.

“Ab­so­lutely noth­ing has happened to this point,” Brendan Boyle said.

Boyle said one reas­on could be that there is a gen­er­al anti-gov­ern­ment feel­ing among many in Har­ris­burg, and they’re hes­it­ant to raise taxes or fees.

Fed­er­al fund­ing for sig­ni­fic­ant trans­port­a­tion pro­jects is not ex­pec­ted to ma­ter­i­al­ize.

The prob­lems are not go­ing away, ac­cord­ing to Dean and the Boyles.

Brendan Boyle said Route 232 of­ten gets backed up with traffic head­ing south in­to Rockledge and Fox Chase and north near Philmont Av­en­ue.

The av­er­age age of bridges in Pennsylvania is 53 years, older than the na­tion­al av­er­age. The state leads the na­tion with more than 5,500 struc­tur­ally de­fi­cient bridges.

“It’s a dis­aster wait­ing to hap­pen,” Brendan Boyle said.

Boyle is hope­ful that Rep. Rick Geist, a Blair County Re­pub­lic­an who chairs the House Trans­port­a­tion Com­mit­tee, con­vinces House lead­er­ship to move for­ward on the fund­ing is­sue.

Kev­in Boyle does not un­der­stand why the is­sue of trans­port­a­tion fund­ing needs to be con­tro­ver­sial, ar­guing that spend­ing will pro­mote com­merce and the cre­ation of good jobs. He fears an in­cid­ent sim­il­ar to the one that took place on Aug. 1, 2007, when a bridge on In­ter­state 35 in Min­neapol­is col­lapsed in­to the Mis­sis­sippi River, killing 13.

Dean said the trans­port­a­tion spend­ing would cre­ate con­struc­tion and af­fil­i­ated jobs. She also be­lieves it’s bet­ter to ad­dress these is­sues now rather than later, when they would be more costly and could come after a tragedy.

“A stitch in time saves nine,” she said, quot­ing Ben­jamin Frank­lin. ••

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You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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