Phila. region faces transportation shortfall, report finds

Traffic crosses the Walt Whitman Bridge to the Shore. Funding is seen as not keeping up with needs.
Traffic crosses the Walt Whitman Bridge to the Shore. Funding is seen as not keeping up with needs. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 19, 2013

The Philadelphia region can expect less than half of the $120 billion it needs for transportation over the next 27 years, according to a new long-range plan by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

A draft version of the plan says the nine-county region in Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey will be short $68 billion to maintain and slightly expand its network of highways, bridges, public transit, and airports between now and 2040.

The deficit will be greater in Pennsylvania because of its larger and older transportation network and lower taxes.

Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties will have $33 billion for $95 billion in needs, while Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Mercer Counties will have $19 billion for $25 billion in needs, according to projections by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

The DVRPC report, "Connections 2040," is a blueprint for the growth of the region. The agency, which decides how federal transportation money is spent in the Philadelphia region, is required to update every four years its long-range vision for the area's future.

A public meeting on the plan is set for 2 to 4 p.m. June 27 at DVRPC headquarters at Sixth and Race Streets. The DVRPC board will vote on the report's adoption at its July 25 meeting.

"The poor condition of the transportation system and the increasing backlog of unmet needs make it imperative that the region find a way to reduce the funding gap," the report says. "Local funding for transportation capital projects in the region remain well below peer region averages.

"This . . . puts the region at a competitive disadvantage when compared to its peers across the nation and around the world."

The DRVPC report calls for greater spending by local governments to help fill the gap, but in many cases, local governments are limited in what they are legally permitted to do to raise money. Unlike regions in other states, for instance, they cannot levy local sales taxes for transportation.

The report focuses on maintaining the existing transportation network, instead of building many new roads or transit lines.

The report also calls for directing future growth toward existing developed areas to limit sprawl and the demand for services. And it said greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by 60 percent by 2040, compared with 2005 levels.

By 2040, the nine-county region will be home to 6.26 million people, up 11 percent from the 5.6 million who lived here in 2010, the report predicted. Most of the growth is expected to occur in Gloucester (31 percent), Chester (30 percent), Bucks (16 percent), and Montgomery (12 percent) Counties, while Philadelphia is forecast to grow by about 7 percent, to 1.63 million people.


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

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