Editorial | Circuitous route to roads bill has ended

November 26, 2013 

The following editorial appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday.

On their road trip to a deal on funding for the state’s crumbling highways, rickety bridges and aging transit systems, Gov. Tom Corbett and state lawmakers sure took the long way around.

But the $2.3 billion measure — literally years in the works and finally approved last week — was worth going the distance.

The injection of revenue admittedly promises some pain at the gas pump: Average per-gallon prices of $3.35 could rise by as much as 28 cents.

Also, the plan calls for higher driver licensing fees and traffic fines. But those steps will allow Pennsylvania to avoid a future that was looking increasingly grim for motorists and transit riders alike.

With $1.65 billion a year set aside for highway projects, state officials expect to move aggressively on shoring up more than 4,000 structurally deficient bridges — hundreds of which are already weight-restricted and causing driving hassles — and patching more than 9,200 miles of rutted roads whose condition costs millions a year in vehicle repairs.

Meanwhile, SEPTA will get another $340 million a year, enabling the state’s largest transit agency to head off massive service reductions.

Nor are motorists and straphangers the only winners. The bill includes trailblazing funding for bike and pedestrian projects and street improvements, such as safer routes to schools.

The highway projects alone could create up to 50,000 jobs. Even with a wrongheaded provision allowing small highway projects to pay lower wages, the state’s dim employment outlook should brighten.

No doubt the governor’s advisers hope the good vibes pay dividends at re-election time.

To be sure, Corbett deserves credit for doggedly pursuing a deal amid opposition from many Republican House members, and he was helped by the valuable jawboning of Senate GOP leaders.

Whether he was displaying pieces of crumbling bridges or smartly allying with his predecessors, Corbett saw to it that the intraparty conflicts in this road movie were resolved in the state’s best interests.

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