Corbett says road, bridge, and transit problems too big for Pa. budget

Posted: February 09, 2012

Is transportation too expensive to pay for?

Gov. Corbett said Tuesday that he did not budget for rescuing troubled highways, bridges, and mass-transit systems because the problem is so vast.

Corbett's own transportation funding advisory commission urged last August that the state increase motor vehicle registration and license fees and raise a component of the gasoline tax to produce $2.5 billion more a year for highways, bridges, and mass transit.

Pennsylvania has more structurally deficient bridges than any other state - more than 5,000.

But Corbett reduced transportation funding by about 9 percent in the budget he proposed Tuesday: $5.86 billion, down from $6.43 billion this year.

"It is critical that we address our transportation issues," Corbett said in his budget address. "This is not a budget item. It is too large for that.

"Transportation must be confronted as its own distinct and separate topic."

He did not say what solutions he favored to pay to rebuild the state's crumbling bridges and highways and transit properties.

"There is less money to work with," said PennDot spokesman Dennis Buterbaugh. "We're not going to let a bridge fall down or be unsafe . . . but we will have to shift more money from paving and expansion to maintain bridges."

The cuts in transportation also mean less funding for mass transit.

SEPTA will get about $300 million for its capital budget to pay for such things as new vehicles and station improvements. That is the same as this year and down 25 percent from three years ago.

SEPTA will once again put off construction projects for lack of money.

"Funding constraints are threatening SEPTA's ability to serve its growing customer base," SEPTA said in a statement Tuesday. "More than $600 million in critical upgrades, from bridge repairs to overhauls of aging electrical substations and renovations of outdated facilities . . . have been deferred indefinitely."

SEPTA's daily operating subsidy from the state will remain about the same, so the agency will not face service cuts or fare hikes in the next year, with an infusion of cash from its rainy-day fund.

But that "service stabilization fund" will then be tapped out, and SEPTA faces an operating deficit of about $50 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2013.

That could again raise the specter of service cuts. A fare increase is already anticipated for that year.


Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.

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