By George Greig
We’re on the edge of a transportation crisis. More than 9,200 miles of Pennsylvania roads are in poor condition, and that number will nearly double in four years. About 4,000 bridges are structurally deficient and many can’t hold trucks, tractors and farm equipment.
The condition of our transportation system affects the way farmers do business and how consumers enjoy the state’s agriculture bounty. Gov. Tom Corbett has a long-term solution to fix our transportation network.
Transportation drives our No. 1 industry — agriculture — and we need good roads to get food to Pennsylvanians. Each day, thousands of dollars of agriculture products move on our state’s roadways. We expect pickup, travel and delivery of our farm products to be efficient. Products are loaded onto a truck shortly after they are harvested from our fields or pumped from our milk tanks. They should arrive to our consumers safe, fresh and undamaged. But too often, that’s not the case.
Rough roads damage freight and add travel time, meaning consumers may get lower-quality products. Many bridges can’t hold the trucks that carry our food, and they’re forced to take detours that add time to trips. Vehicles that travel these deteriorating roads burn more fuel and need costly repairs more often. Our aging roads are cutting into farmers’ profits, resulting in higher prices for consumers. Pennsylvania can’t afford bad roads.
Corbett’s proposal adds $1.8 billion to Pennsylvania’s transportation system. That money will allow the state to restore our bridges, repave our roads and improve public transportation, while adding as many as 50,000 good-paying jobs.
Pennsylvania’s transportation funding crisis has been decades in the making, and while quick money has come and gone, the state has not received a significant funding increase since 1997. The lack of funding is starting to take its toll.
We cannot continue to ignore the problem and increase the burden on future generations. We must fund Pennsylvania’s transportation system now. Under the governor’s proposal, the state would raise additional dollars by removing an artificial cap on the Oil Company Franchise Tax. The governor is also proposing a 17-percent reduction in the “flat” motor fuels tax paid directly at the pump by motorists.
Our transportation system needs to be fixed now. Farmers can’t wait and neither can Pennsylvanians. Putting it off costs our economy, our safety and worst of all, it increases the cost for future generations.
Greig, a Linesville resident, is the Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary.