Pennsylvania has more structurally deficient bridges than any state in the nation, more than 5,000, and 26 percent of its state-owned roads - about 8,000 miles - are in very poor condition.
If Corbett signs the legislation, as expected, the state will become the 33d to authorize public-private partnerships for transportation projects.
A seven-member state panel would approve the projects, and the legislature would have 20 days to overrule the panel.
Supporters envision that the authority would allow "capacity-enhancing projects" to add, say, a toll lane to I-95 or the Schuylkill Expressway, with drivers paying a variable toll to avoid the congested free lanes.
They point to Virginia's public-private partnership to build express lanes on I-495 west of Washington. Those new lanes will be free for high-occupancy vehicles (those containing more than two people) and available for a toll to all other drivers, with the toll rising or falling depending on congestion.
Other examples of such partnerships include the $1 billion Port of Miami tunnel, Denver's $7 billion "FasTracks" expansion, and San Francisco's $1 billion Presidio Parkway.
The new Pennsylvania law specifically prohibits using the measure to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike, as then-Gov. Ed Rendell tried to do in 2008.
Any effort to lease the turnpike would require separate action by the legislature.
Geist predicted the new law would prompt transportation officials to proceed with projects that had been on hold, because private up-front money and expertise would speed the work.
"Projects that have been on the shelf will be undertaken, creating a multitude of jobs in the engineering and construction industries that are looking to get back to work," he said.
Rep. Steve Santarsiero of Bucks County voted against the bill, arguing that it took control of road projects away from local residents and legislators.
"It's taking the view of residents out of the mix," he said. "It's also letting companies that might not be anywhere near the area be responsible for it."
Santarsiero, a Democrat, sought to require companies to give preference to Pennsylvania workers and the use of Pennsylvania steel. His amendment was defeated in the GOP-controlled state House.
"The real problem is our critical funding problem, and that hasn't been addressed yet," he said. "We need the governor to come out with a proposal. Unless he signals his support for some plan, it's not going to move."
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