Two Centre County bridges were closed this spring, even as state legislators were saying its time the governor and the General Assembly make funds available for road repairs.
On Wednesday, a local business leader joined the chorus, saying layoffs at his company were the result of funding delays in Harrisburg.
A PennDOT spokesman on Thursday confirmed that there is universal agreement that more state money should be funneled to road and bridge projects, for safety reasons and for economic development.
The only real question seems to be: Whats the holdup?
State Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, asked that question in April, standing beside a bridge along Ardery Hollow Road in Worth Township. The bridge had its weight limit reduced and was branded one of the countys bridges in greatest need of repair.
Its starting to get dangerous, Conklin said then. We have, in small communities across Pennsylvania, roads and bridges that are not safe to drive over anymore.
We need a long-term infrastructure plan, state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, said Wednesday. I think youre going to see additional bridges closed or weight restricted subsequent to this, and that doesnt help anybody.
Glenn O. Hawbaker construction President Dan Hawbaker now says layoffs at his company are the result of delays in state funding for planned road projects. GOH furloughed more than 60 workers Tuesday.
Hawbaker told Centre Daily Times reporter Matt Morgan that as many as 30,000 additional highway construction jobs across the state are now at risk.
Until the Pennsylvania legislature takes action it wont get better, Hawbaker said.
Gov. Tom Corbett acknowledged in February, when releasing his proposed budget, that there was a real need to generate money for road and bridge work.
His advisory commission recommended that $2.5 billion more annually was required.
The general consensus is that we need to increase funding for highway projects, PennDOTs Dennis Buterbaugh told the Centre Daily Times on Thursday.
When that decision will be made and when we will move forward hasnt been decided.
Various options have been floated for bridging the funding gap. Among them:
Increasing the fees motorists pay for license and registration renewals.
Extending the time a license or registration is valid, perhaps from four to eight years, to reduce the workload and associated costs.
A combination of the two. We appreciate these options, understanding that the state isnt suddenly going to find a pot of gold to pay for road work.
Its no secret that the economy hasnt been real robust, Buterbaugh said.
Thats not news, and neither is the need to find a way to make needed improvements to our highways and bridges.
We urge our local legislators to push their colleagues and the governor for action toward adopting recommendations for highway funding that do not put a huge burden on taxpayers, but help the state accomplish the recognized goal of making travel safer.
Yes, we are troubled when a local business lays off workers.
But this is not something that should be done merely so that Glenn O. Hawbaker and other paving companies see revenues increase, or simply to protect or create jobs. Those are side benefits.
Fundamentally, fixing our roads and bridges will keep drivers safe and could pave the way for more businesses to come to Pennsylvania.
If theres no debate that this needs to be done, lets stop spinning our wheels and move forward on fixing Pennsylvanias roads.