Sunday, September 10, 2017

PennDOT Warns Lawmakers that Raiding Funds Jeopardizes Transit, Infrastructure Projects

Secretary of Transportation Leslie S. Richards Friday warned oversight chairs in the House and Senate that a recently unveiled House Republican plan to cut transportation funding from dedicated sources is based on misleading information and would lead to transit services cuts in small and large
systems, and delay or deny assistance to important transportation infrastructure.


“Most of these funds are not available, they are actually contractually obligated for current and pending projects,” Sec. Richards wrote. “This could have been conveyed to House Republicans had the department been contacted prior to the release of this plan.

“Moving $357 million from the Pennsylvania Public Transit Trust Fund would mean a 35 percent reduction in operating subsidies this fiscal year for the state’s 37 fixed route transit agencies. That could translate into more than 30 percent service reductions and fare increases.

“The loss of $120 million from the Multimodal fund will deny much needed assistance to communities, rail freight lines and airports around the state.

Communities have limited resources for transportation improvements and increasingly rely on state funding to fill the gap and meet important needs, such as safety improvements to intersections and safety improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists.”

The letter lays out the impacts of cutting $357 million from the Pennsylvania Public Transit Trust Fund, $120 million from the Multimodal Transportation Fund and $30 million from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Bank, totaling more than half a billion dollars in funding cuts to infrastructure and transportation in Pennsylvania.

Cuts to transit agencies would be cataclysmic, particularly those located in smaller, more rural areas of the commonwealth, who are reliant upon the state for a majority of their operating subsidies. For example, a 35-percent reduction would translate to:
  • A more than $580,000 reduction for the Indiana County Transit Authority;
  • $1.7 million less for the Area Transportation Authority in the north central region;
  • $2.4 million less for the Central Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (rabbittransit);
  • $2.4 million less for the Red Rose Transit Authority;
  • $3.2 million less for the Berks Area Regional Transportation Authority;
  • $3.4 million less for the Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority; and
  • $6 million less for the Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority.
Cuts to the Multimodal Transportation Fund would put in jeopardy projects from across the state which are seeking investment and are aimed at improving safety and connectivity while modernizing infrastructure.

The $30 million in the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Bank supports a variety of local transportation improvements that simply would be unable to proceed without this low-interest-rate loan program. In fact, more than $20 million of this funding is already committed or in the approval process for projects improving community roadways. Examples of projects impacted by cutting this funding include:
  • $500,000 for public street and drainage reconstruction projects in North Manheim Township, Schuylkill County;
  • $26,000 for street improvements in Stillwater Borough, Columbia County; and
  • $263,000 for street and drainage improvements in Beaver Meadows Borough, Carbon County.

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