State Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch has seen the road ahead, and it is filled with potholes, weight restrictions, closings and detours, plus more impassable bridges. Mr. Schoch, along with the rest of Pennsylvania, needs help from his boss, Gov. Tom Corbett.
Due to cuts at both the federal and state levels, Pennsylvania's 12-year transportation spending plan is nearly 40 percent lower than the one adopted four years ago. The $41.6 billion is down by $26.3 billion, which means new capacity-adding projects will be off the table and progress that the state has made to reduce the number of deteriorating bridges will be reversed.
There is plenty of blame to go around for this sad state of affairs.
Congress cut Pennsylvania's allocation of transportation dollars by $111 million in approving a new, two-year federal authorization bill. The state's accelerated bridge repair program -- which reduced the number of structurally deficient bridges from 6,300 to 4,700 -- has ended. And there's been no legislative action on revenue-generating recommendations made by the governor's hand-picked Transportation Funding Advisory Commission.
Despite the recent progress, Pennsylvania still holds the dubious distinction of having more deficient bridges than any other state, and the emphasis on bridge repairs came at a cost to road maintenance. Twenty-one percent of state-owned roads are rated "poor" due to the roughness of their surfaces, and by 2016 the proportion will grow to 40 percent.
That's if nothing changes, and that's where Gov. Corbett must step in.
His commission put together a package of moves that could generate $2.5 billion annually for transportation, with higher fees for driver's licenses and vehicle registrations and removal of a cap on fuel taxes paid by wholesalers. The plan has won widespread support, including from some prominent Republicans, save one.
It needs a strong statement of support from Mr. Corbett to go forward in the Legislature when members return to Harrisburg. Without it, traveling to the state capital -- and anywhere else in the state -- will become only more treacherous.