Meadville Tribune

October 19, 2013

SUNDAY ISSUE: Are you ready to pay more at the pump for transportation improvements when Harrisburg commuters are likely to be among the biggest beneficiaries?

By John Finnerty
CNHI Harrisburg Bureau

HARRISBURG — While state House leaders wrangle over the details in a proposed billion dollar transportation spending plan, many members quietly worry that the plan will not include enough money for local roadwork even as their constituents are being asked to pony up more in gas tax and more in registration fees.

An analysis of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s 1,183-page spending plan shows that while the cost will be shared by motorists statewide, there are regions that will definitely fare better. Among the biggest potential winners: Harrisburg commuters.

The 106th Legislative District of Dauphin County Republican John Payne stands to get the largest influx of road construction cash if the House passes a transportation plan that spends at least as much as the $1.8 billion a year proposed by Gov. Tom Corbett earlier this year. The Department of Transportation has identified almost $1 billion worth of work in Payne’s district. And he’s not alone. Capital area lawmakers account for four of the Top 10 districts due the largest windfall if the transportation plan is approved. The largest portion of that spending is aimed at improving travel on Interstate 83, which carries traffic around Harrisburg.

The proposed $559 million cost of the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway has the district of state Rep. Lynda Schlegel-Culver, R-Northumberland County, third on the windfall list.

The transportation department developed its list of projects by considering the needs of the highway system and by trying to identify work that can begin quickly, said Erin Waters-Trasatt, a PennDOT spokeswoman.

The district of Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Cambria County, is among the districts projected to get the smallest amount of additional road and bridge work. Barbin worries frugal-minded Republicans push to get the amount of spending decreased further. If that happens, work slated to be done in the districts of rank-and-file lawmakers could get shelved.

How the work is divided is an issue to lawmakers because their constituents will be sharing the burden of paying for the construction, Barbin said.

While Corbett’s plan would have spent up to $1.8 billion a year, a Senate bill now awaiting action in the House increased the spending to up to $2.5 billion a year. House leaders have said a vote on the bill could take place this coming week.

Much of the attention about the cost to drivers has been focused on the projected 25 to 28 cent a gallon increase in the price of gas. But, the funding plan passed in the Senate would tack a $100 surcharge on all speeding tickets and between $100 to $300 on other moving violations, such as driving through a red light or ignoring a stop sign.

Vehicle registration would only need to be renewed every two years. But the cost of a renewal would increase from $36 to $104. Also, driver’s licenses would increase from $29.50 to $50.50.



John Finnerty works in the Harrisburg Bureau for Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. He can be reached by email at jfinnerty@cnhi.com or on Twitter @cnhipa.



Local districts

The following is how much the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation proposes to spend on road and bridge construction in Crawford County if there is no new money approved by the Legislature, if the governor’s $1.8 billion a year is approved and if the Senate’s $2.5 billion a year plan is approved.

5th District, led by Republican state Rep. Greg Lucas

No new money: $88 million

Corbett’s plan: $120 million

Senate plan: $39 million

Total new money: $159 million

6th District, led by Republican state Rep. Brad Roae

No new money: $18 million

Corbett’s plan: $137 million

Senate plan: $27 million

Total new money: $164 million

17th District, led by Republican state Rep. Michele Brooks

No new money: $140 million

Corbett’s plan: $210 million

Senate plan: $21 million

Total new money: $231 million



Most to gain

The following are the top five legislative districts that have the most to gain from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plan if there is no new money approved by the Legislature, if the governor’s $1.8 billion a year is approved and if the Senate’s $2.5 billion a year plan is approved.

1. 106th District in Dauphin County

No new money: $67 million

Corbett’s plan: $941 million

Senate plan: $2 million

Total new money: $943 million

2. 171st District in Centre County

No new money: $61 million

Corbett’s plan: $844 million

Senate plan: $11 million

Total new money: $855 million

3. 108th District in Northumberland County

No new money: $121 million

Corbett’s plan: $622 million

Senate plan: $24 million

Total new money: $646 million

4. 158th District in Chester County

No new money: $162 million

Corbett’s plan: $309 million

Senate plan: $277 million

Total new money: $586 million

5. 155th District in Chester Country

No new money: $70 million

Corbett’s plan: $305 million

Senate plan: $277 million

Total new money: $582 million