Roadside rescue: Don't look for it from the House leadership

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Now that the Legislature has kicked off its fall session, members have a chance to make this a turnaround season for Pennsylvania's roads and bridges.

A stalemate over transportation funding was one of the major issues left hanging when the lawmakers recessed in July. The latest consequence of that failure is new weight restrictions on 1,000 bridges across the state including the Liberty Bridge, which carries about 54,000 vehicles per day across the Monongahela River.

A remedy is the $2.5 billion package already passed by the Senate, which members of the House will soon have a chance to vote on. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, a Bradford Woods Republican, somewhat begrudgingly said so on Monday at the Pennsylvania Press Club in Harrisburg.

Mr. Turzai did not acquit himself well during that appearance because he didn't even bring up transportation while discussing items on his chamber's agenda. It was not until he was asked about the topic by someone in the audience that he said he intended to schedule a vote.

Mr. Turzai expressed no enthusiasm for the topic, saying "nobody's asking for fees, fines and surcharges to be increased."

Nobody's asking for the long detours and potential disaster associated with deficient spans and pothole-pocked roads either, but that doesn't mean the state should just allow them to fall apart under the wheels of our cars.

The reasonable fee increases, commensurate with inflation, that are in the bill are necessary to counter under-funding that has left Pennsylvania with more structurally deficient bridges than any other state and too many miles of deteriorating roadways.

With Tom Corbett in the governor's office and Republican majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, it's up to the party's leaders in Harrisburg -- Mr. Turzai included -- to move forward with a far-reaching, comprehensive transportation plan.

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