Renews call for Gov. Corbett, General Assembly to pass infrastructure bill
JOHNSTOWN, Pa., May 10, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Cambria County motorists are nine times as likely to pass a structurally deficient bridge than a McDonald's restaurant, said Auditor General Jack Wagner, who again today called on Gov. Corbett and the General Assembly to make passage of a comprehensive transportation and infrastructure bill their No. 1 legislative priority this spring.
"It's time for our elected officials to stop wasting their time and focus on the things that Pennsylvanians care about most – unsafe roads and bridges and a lack of well-paying middle-class jobs," Wagner said. "A comprehensive transportation bill would address both concerns. It would improve our bridges and highways while putting tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians back to work."
Wagner spoke at a press conference at the Haynes Street Bridge in Johnstown – one of 72 Cambria County bridges classified as structurally deficient by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. (That compares with 8 McDonald's restaurants in Cambria County, according to the company's website.) The problem is even greater for residents of Johnstown, where there are 12 structurally deficient bridges and only one McDonald's.
Opened in 1922, the Haynes Street Bridge carries Route 271 over the Stonycreek River. About 10,000 motorists use the bridge each day. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the bridge's substructure and superstructure are rated as poor, meaning that they are in bad condition and that the deterioration of primary structural elements has advanced.
Because of a lack of funding, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials have estimated that the Haynes Street Bridge will not be repaired or replaced until about 2017.
Wagner said that crumbling infrastructure is a major problem across the commonwealth, not just in Cambria County. He said that Pennsylvania has 6,000 structurally deficient bridges and 8,452 miles of highway rated as poor, and that the longer Harrisburg delays in making infrastructure investment, the more it will cost taxpayers.
In November 2006, Gov. Ed Rendell's Pennsylvania Transportation Funding and Reform Commission identified a $1.7 billion annual shortfall in funding for the commonwealth's transportation infrastructure and mass transit services. In 2010, Gov. Rendell's State Transportation Advisory Committee produced a report that estimated the state's unfunded transportation needs at approximately $3.5 billion. The report stated that the gap is growing and will reach an estimated $7.2 billion in 10 years if nothing is done. The gap is growing because of continued decline in fuel tax revenue due to vehicle efficiency, reduced buying power due to inflation, and the Pennsylvania State Police's consuming a bigger slice of the Motor License Fund.
In 2011, Gov. Corbett's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission released a report that included funding proposals to bring in $2.5 billion per year for infrastructure projects, including taking a cap off the oil company franchise tax.
Infrastructure investment is supported by many state business organizations, Wagner noted, including the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association.
Robert Latham, executive vice president of the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, testified before a state House panel in June 2010 that a $2 billion increase in transportation infrastructure spending could lead to the creation of as many as 50,000 jobs.
Inadequate infrastructure is not only a threat to Pennsylvania, but it's a major issue for the nation, Wagner said. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. needs to invest $2.2 trillion to repair highway, transit and water projects after years of neglect.
"The time has come to stop putting off infrastructure investment," Wagner said. "Not only would infrastructure investment improve public safety, reduce traffic bottlenecks and enhance our economic competitiveness, it would also help address the issue of greatest concern to all Pennsylvanians: jobs."
Auditor General Jack Wagner is responsible for ensuring that all state money is spent legally and properly. He is the commonwealth's elected independent fiscal watchdog, conducting financial audits, performance audits and special investigations. The Department of the Auditor General conducts thousands of audits each year. To learn more about the Department of the Auditor General, taxpayers are encouraged to visit the department's website at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General