Time is ticking down if the legislature is to take up the matter before 2013. Legislators will be wary of voting to raise taxes in 2012, an election year, and they like governors to lead on sensitive issues by building support around the state - a campaign that can take months.
For years, Pennsylvania has lagged in its commitment to maintain keep of its roads, bridges, and mass-transit systems, and a multibillion-dollar backlog of repairs has resulted, transportation advocates say.
On Aug. 23, Corbett's transportation secretary, Barry Schoch, had just briefed a group of business-sector advocates on the number of state-maintained bridges in need of repair when the East Coast earthquake rattled the room.
"We just kind of looked at each other and said, 'What was that number again?' " said David Patti, president and chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Business Council.
The number is 5,200 - the most in the nation, or about one in five of all state-maintained bridges, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Of the approximately 40,000 state-maintained highway miles, one in five was in need of repairs as of a year ago.
"We literally have a safety issue, when you look at the condition of roads and bridges," said Gene Barr, vice president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.
Beyond safety, business advocates say the state's competitiveness is hurt by employee hours lost on congested roads, delivery trucks detoured around weight-restricted bridges, and inadequate public-transportation systems that many use to get to work.
This year, PennDOT is scheduled to spend $5.2 billion on highways, bridges, and transit, including federal money.
The cornerstone of the commission's recommendations was the removal of a cap on the oil company franchise tax, a wholesale tax paid by gas stations. At the end of a five-year phase-in period, that alone would provide almost $1.4 billion, the commission said. Assuming gas stations pass the entire cost through to customers and gas prices stay the same, that would add about 19 cents to a gallon of gasoline after five years.
Pennsylvanians pay state taxes of 32.3 cents a gallon - the nation's 14th-highest such tax as of Jan. 1, according to the Tax Foundation.
California's was the highest at 47.7 cents.
Under Gov. Rendell, a transportation study panel in 2006 said the state should spend an $1.7 billion more a year to maintain its transportation network. Last year, another panel said an $3.5 billion a year more was needed, including money for locally maintained roads and bridges.
Rendell shied from raising fuel taxes, but his proposals to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike, raise vehicle and license fees, and impose a profits tax on major oil companies failed.
Lawmakers instead produced a plan to raise more money from tolls on the turnpike and Interstate 80. The federal government rejected the state's application to toll I-80, leaving turnpike motorists alone to pay more - $450 million a year to PennDOT, plus interest since the money was borrowed.
Last year, Rendell toured the state in an effort to coax action from the legislature.
At the time, Corbett was a candidate for governor and had taken the antitax pledge, prompting Rendell to warn that a Corbett victory could mean a badly underfunded transportation network.
Nothing happened. Now, lawmakers are waiting for Corbett.
"When the governor indicates what he will support and be involved with is when legislation will start moving," Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty (R., Montgomery) said Thursday.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Rick Geist (R., Blair) said he believed the governor was fully aware of the problem and its magnitude.
"The roads and bridges are no longer Ed Rendell's," Geist said. "They're now Tom Corbett's."