State Sen. Jake Corman praises transportation bill, says part of U.S. 322 project could begin in 2014

State Sen. Jake Corman said everything in state government is an investment.

He looks at the $2.3 billion transportation bill the same way, which likely will provide funding to major Centre County transportation projects such as U.S. Route 322 and the Waddle Road interchange with Interstate 99.

Though the bill increases the gas tax that likely will be passed on to consumers at the pump, Corman, R-Benner Township, said Tuesday that the cost of doing nothing was not an option.

He added that he thinks the tax is a good solution because it is a user tax, and the people who do the most wear and tear damage to the roads will be charged the most.

“If you drive a lot, you’re going to pay a lot, and if you don’t drive a lot, you’re not going to pay a lot,” Corman said.

The senator said he expects that the Potters Mills interchange on Route 322 likely will receive preferential treatment because it is high on the priority list of the secretary of transportation and the governor. He said he could see that project getting off the ground in the next year.

But with studies and plans required for the remaining portions of 322, he said he thinks the remainder of the project could take a bit longer to get started.

Gov. Tom Corbett signed the bill into law Monday in Potters Mills, where several accidents, including fatalities, have occurred.

Centre County Board of Commissioners Chairman Steve Dershem said the funding is beneficial for the area because it address some dangerous roads.

“While we were over there with the governor (Monday), there was a truck that plowed through almost causing an accident,” he said, “so I think the point was made almost vividly ... about how important that project is.”

The project didn’t receive a ringing endorsement from all the local representatives.

State Rep. Scott Conklin voted against the bill because he doesn’t feel all options were exhausted before the gas tax increase was implemented.

Conklin initiated a multibill package in May to propose transportation reform through other means, such as closing the so-called Delaware loophole and imposing a natural gas severance fee of 5 cents per 1,000 cubic feet that is already built into the price. The Delaware loophole is a tax avoidance strategy for Pennsylvania corporations based out of Delaware.

Those measures could have raised an estimated $886 million within a year, his chief of staff, Tor Michaels, said.

“We just feel the working families of Pennsylvania should not bear the full brunt of our transportation woes,” he said.

He said they will continue to explore those options and getting funding from other sources, but he said the General Assembly has already chosen its path, and he doesn’t see Republican House leadership putting forth any more bills on the issue.