County deserves quality transportation system

In 2014, the Pennsylvania General Assembly took a major step forward in improving our aging and deteriorating transportation infrastructure by passing Act 89. The legislation increases the state’s annual transportation investment by $2.3 billion. While a large sum of money when considering our state’s 40,500 miles of roadway, 35,000 state, county and municipal bridges, airports, mass transit and state police, Penn DOT and counties are challenged to meet all the needs. Safe and reliable transportation is not simply a matter of personal convenience. It’s about economic development, jobs, quality of life and safety. Ease and quality of transportation is one of the key factors evaluated by businesses seeking to locate facilities.

Section 1935 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code allows counties to collect a $5 fee for local use on nonexempt vehicles registered in a county. The chairman of the Centre County commissioners, Michael Pipe, has launched a process to explore municipal interest in the additional revenues. I strongly support the additional vehicle registration fee to increase the funding for highway projects in Centre County. Every dollar raised, by law, must be used to fund construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of public roads, streets or bridges.

There are 117,400 eligible vehicles registered in Centre County. The $5 fee would generate approximately $587,000. All money raised via the fee must remain in our county. To put these additional funds into perspective during 2016, Centre County received $1.36 million in requests for projects from liquid fuels funds. Liquid fuels funds are the taxes generated when we all fill up at the gas pump. The funds available for these projects were $186,757, clearly falling short of the requests. The registration fee could substantially close this gap. Several more projects could be brought to fruition each year.

Another important consideration with the local fee is the ability to leverage these resources to secure additional federal and state monies that require a match. This is simply the way projects are funded. The federal programs are based on competitive need as the requests are received from states and nearly always include a requirement that a municipality also provide a specified amount of matching money. In other words, the local registration fee can leverage significant federal and state resources. In many situations, our local 20 percent contribution via the fee could leverage the 80 percent of the balance necessary to complete infrastructure projects. To date, 14 counties have adopted the registration fee. The major urban areas: Allegheny, Dauphin, Montgomery and Philadelphia have adopted and implemented programs. Our county has the opportunity to preserve and enhance our ability to compete for future transportation dollars.

I strongly encourage all of our municipalities to support the adoption of the registration fee for local use ordinance in Centre County. I would also encourage all of our businesses and motorists to communicate with the commissioners about the need for future investments in our local highways and bridges.

With your help we can invest in our futures by providing a safe and reliable transportation system and maintain competitive arterial routes to support local and new businesses.

Dan Hawbaker, President and CEO of Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc.