Citing a $3.5 billion-a-year gap between the state's transportation needs and its current resources, Rep. Richard A. Geist (R., Blair) told a highway contractors' trade association that the state's problem "is both immediate and massive."
Geist, the ranking Republican on the committee, said the state legislature should pass a law permitting public-private partnerships for financing and building transportation projects.
Pennsylvania's transportation-funding woes worsened in April, when the state lost its bid for federal approval to raise $472 million by placing tolls on I-80. Gov. Rendell called a special session of the legislature in May to tackle the issue, but legislators ended up doing nothing.
That followed the failure in 2008 of a Rendell proposal to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike for $12.8 billion to a Spanish toll-road operator and a U.S. investment firm.
"Deteriorated road and bridge conditions and mounting traffic congestion threaten to impede economic activity and diminish quality of life" in Pennsylvania, said the report released Tuesday by the Road Information Program, a national transportation-research group known as TRIP.
The report found that 72 percent of major roads in Southeastern Pennsylvania were in poor or mediocre condition and half of the 4,307 bridges in the area were structurally deficient (24 percent) or functionally obsolete (26 percent).
The study cited eight busy bridges in the Philadelphia area as prime examples of deficient spans, including the Platt Bridge, the Chestnut Street bridge at 30th Street, and the Passyunk Avenue drawbridge over the Schuylkill.
The study also said 59 percent of urban highways in the region were congested, costing the average Philadelphia driver 38 hours a year stuck in traffic jams.
The total cost of congestion and deficient roads and bridges is $1,474 a year for the average motorist in the Philadelphia area, the report said.
The report said that "without a substantial, long-term boost in local, state, or federal surface transportation funding, numerous projects" to improve roads and transit will go undone, hampering the state's economic prospects.
The report's authors did not suggest ways to raise the money to make the improvements they seek.
Corbett has said he would oppose any tax increase.
During the legislative special session, Rendell had urged lawmakers to consider an increase in the state gasoline tax, the oil-company franchise tax, and motor-vehicle-related fees for cars and trucks, as well as levying the state sales tax on gasoline or increasing real estate transfer taxes.
Pennsylvania's gas tax of 32.3 cents a gallon (including the franchise tax) is 13th-highest in the nation. The national average is 29.3 cents.
Some lawmakers want to seek federal authority to place tolls on I-95 and I-80 just to pay for repairs to those roads.
And lawmakers could revisit the issue of leasing the turnpike.
Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or email@example.com