by Adam Lang
April 1, 2010
Events in Pennsylvania over the last several years have made clear that transportation needs to be a prominent policy discussion in this year’s gubernatorial and legislative races. What makes it different from previous years is that, in addition to talking about how we raise the money and how we spend it, we have to address geographic issues as well.
One of the biggest items on the block is the proposed tolling of Interstate 80. Gov. Ed Rendell had a grand plan to pay for a variety of mass transit and infrastructure projects by tolling I-80. One of the major flaws in his plans is that he had no control over tolling I-80 and has thus far failed at getting permission from the federal government to do so. What many people don’t realize is that he, and the General Assembly, are still spending the money as if tolls are in place. Bonds were taken out against future revenue—revenue that simply doesn’t’ exist. In essence, Harrisburg put Pennsylvania in further debt because of a faulty plan.
This event is now predominantly pitting northern Pennsylvania against southeastern Pennsylvania.
Another issue is the Delaware River Port Authority, to which the governor gets to appoint half the board members (New Jersey gets the other half). It has had a rich history under Gov. Rendell and former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine of raising tolls on the bridges and incurring debt to further “economic development” projects—which is usually political-speak for “funneling money to friends.” This money is spent in the southeast more often than not, once again pitting the region against other parts of the state.
On top of it all we still have significant road and bridge infrastructure that is in need of major investment for the foreseeable future. As much as pensions are killing state and municipal budgets, infrastructure costs are piling up, too.
This year’s candidates need to discuss how they are going to address these problems—from constitutional amendments to the gas tax, from tolling to appropriate use of funds, from public transit to other options.
As voters, we need to make them talk about these important issues.
Commentary first appeared on pa2010.com