Meadville Tribune

State News

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?

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.

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