The cycle of optimism and disappointment related to the development of a federal transportation funding measure finds us in the down cycle this week as we look at three competing approaches from the U.S. House, Senate and Trump administration.
It seems we go quickly from the glow of “everyone wants to do a transportation bill” to the stark realization that, once again, there is no consensus on what the bill should include, how much it should cost, and how long it should last.
House Democrats say they want to pass a bill before the July 4 recess that would provide around $500 billion over five years. The Republican-controlled Senate is said to prefer reauthorizing the Highway Trust Fund to the tune of $287 billion, also for five years, but there is no internal agreement on how to pay for even such a relatively modest measure.
President Trump (per Bloomberg News) is floating the idea of a $1 trillion package in advance of the November election, something Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says would cause the federal deficit to surge for years to come.
On the good news side of things, the short-term state budget enacted earlier this month continued to reduce the diversion from the Motor License Fund by 4%. And, that fund’s coronavirus-induced $100 million shortfall in April dropped to “only” a $54 million shortfall in May as travel began to pick up.
TRANSPORTATION ISSUE UPDATE
- A five-year, $125 million upgrade of the intersection of Route 61 and I-78 began this week. PennDOT was not immediately able to say whether the two-month coronavirus delay would affect the schedule.
- PA Turnpike officials explained to the Senate Transportation Committee this week why they voted to lay off nearly 500 toll workers and transition to cashless tolling two years early. The labor union representing the workers said they intend to sue.
- In Pittsburgh, business and labor teamed up in support of investing in transportation to create jobs and move beyond the Covid-19 recession.
- PennDOT says that the five-year Route 322 Potters Mills construction project will wrap up this fall.
- In Philly, SEPTA is preparing for the slow return from rock-bottom ridership, recently releasing its own detailed reopening guide.
- After the first two months of Pennsylvania’s automated work zone speed enforcement program, around 26,000 vehicle owners have received violation notices.