Column | Time to set aside the roadblocks

November 9, 2013 

There are no Democratic or Republican roads and bridges — and members of both parties need to face this reality so they can face an even more important one: Our transportation system is in trouble.

Gov. Tom Corbett has been traveling the commonwealth speaking about the need for a transportation bill, and at many stops he proves his point by holding up a piece of concrete that has fallen from a nearby bridge.

Regrettably, he doesn’t have to look hard for his material.

At present, 4,500 bridges are below standard. More than 9,000 miles of roads and highways are crumbling. And the Port Authority of Allegheny County is constantly on the edge of insolvency and disastrous route cutbacks.

The problem is that, for the past 20 years, motor-fuels tax revenues have failed to produce the dollars needed to sustain our transportation system, much less expand it.

Higher mileage standards for motor vehicles and changes in travel habits have combined to make us victims of our own success at conservation.

In fact, fuel-tax revenue per mile traveled is the lowest it has been since those taxes were first levied in the 1930s. Because of that, only 3 percent of PennDOT’s multibillion dollar budget goes to new road construction.

Both parties know that we have to expand the state’s economy if we are going to create enough jobs for our residents. One of the biggest obstacles to attracting new companies and enticing existing ones to expand operations is an inefficient transportation system.

When a bridge is weight posted to postpone the moment it can’t be used at all, the first traffic to face that ban are the trucks and trailers carrying Pennsylvania products to market.

We come from opposing political parties. Our approach to a range of issues differs markedly, and our approach to governing is decidedly different. That’s what makes it America.

But the goals of our parties and our party members are the same when it comes to creating a prosperous commonwealth with a high quality of life. That’s why we have come together to ask legislators from both parties to put aside political strategy for a moment in favor of public service.

Pennsylvania needs a transportation bill and it needs one now.

The Democratic and Republican floor leaders in the House serve districts in Allegheny County. They cannot have missed the fact that Allegheny’s economic core — the city of Pittsburgh — is held together by a system of bridges and highways.

They clearly understand that half of Pittsburgh’s downtown workforce gets there by public transportation.

It’s time for them to come to terms with the fact that politics is the art of compromise.

Nobody gets everything they want, but when it comes to the safety and future of Pennsylvania’s residents and its economy, doing nothing is no longer an option.

There is plenty of time for a good, old-fashioned political fight, but when it comes to transportation, it’s time for another old-fashioned Pennsylvania tradition: a reasoned compromise.

Pass the transportation bill.

Mark Singel served as lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and was the Democratic candidate for governor in 1994. Allegheny Republican Chairman James C. Roddey is former Allegheny County executive and served on Gov. Ed Rendell’s transportation funding study commission.

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