PennDot chief: Congress must do its work or put projects at risk

SEPTA plans include new locomotives and replacing the trolley fleet, plus an expansion of rail service. Inquirer, file
SEPTA plans include new locomotives and replacing the trolley fleet, plus an expansion of rail service. Inquirer, file
Posted: July 26, 2014

Even as regional leaders approved a $10.5 billion plan to boost transportation funding for Southeastern Pennsylvania on Thursday, state Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch warned that road and transit projects could be endangered by congressional inaction on the federal Highway Trust Fund.

The federal fund is nearing insolvency. In seven days, the Obama administration will have to start cutting its transportation reimbursements to states unless Congress acts.

The current remedies with the most support in Congress are for temporary fixes that would mean another funding crisis come May.

"I would hate to see all the hard work by Gov. Corbett and the legislature undercut by a lack of federal action," Schoch said Thursday, referring to a landmark state transportation-funding law signed by Corbett in November.

That state law, which uses an increase in the state gas tax and other fees to pay for road and transit projects, will provide an additional $10.5 billion over the next 26 years for Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission board on Thursday approved an amended long-range plan to incorporate the additional money for scores of new projects in the region. And the DVRPC board approved an updated list of projects for the next four years for the state.

On the highway side, $3 billion is being added for bridge repairs through 2040, and $1.5 billion in road projects is being added or accelerated.

The projects will include widening and repairing Interstate 95, reconstructing U.S. 422, reconstructing seven bridges on I-676, and widening U.S. 1 in Bucks County.

SEPTA will get funding to buy new locomotives and new Silverliner VI Regional Rail cars, replace its trolley fleet, and rehabilitate its Broad Street Subway fleet.

Also planned by SEPTA is an expansion of rail service, after decades of cutbacks, by extending the Elwyn line to Wawa in Delaware County and by extending the Norristown High-Speed Line to King of Prussia in Montgomery County.

But Schoch said that without action in Washington to rescue the Highway Trust Fund, states would lose about 30 percent of their federal funding.

"We need Congress to do their work . . . this is a significant risk to Pennsylvania and every other state," he said.

Schoch spoke to the DVRPC board and other transportation leaders who gathered Thursday to recognize him for helping win passage of the state funding law.

Also honored were State Sen. John Rafferty (R., Montgomery) and State Rep. Nicholas Micozzie (R., Delaware).


pnussbaum@phillynews.com

215-854-4587 @nussbaumpaul

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