The Commonwealth’s tight financial picture in recent years has led lawmakers and two governors to significantly increase the amount diverted from the Motor License Fund to help pay for the State Police. I should note that while patrolling highways is a legitimate use of revenue raised from fuel taxes and other highway user fees, we seem to have exceeded that threshold.
The proportion of the State Police budget funded by the Motor License Fund is rapidly approaching 75 percent. In the proposed 2015-15 budget, it totals $739 million, or the equivalent of 12 cents per gallon. A much smaller amount was diverted to the Department of Agriculture weights and measures operation.
There’s no question that State Police operations should be funded, but from where? A recent public opinion poll commissioned by the highway construction industry shows that PA voters don’t like having highway money diverted for non-highway uses. Unfortunately, the odds of correcting this matter are not very good while facing a $1.2 billion year-end structural deficit. More information about the poll can be found here.
Transportation Issue Update
- This week, bipartisan leaders of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee introduced a new six-year surface transportation reauthorization costing more than a quarter-trillion dollars. There’s just one catch: it does not say where the money would come from.
- It was a busy week for Turnpike news. An extension of the Mon Fayette Expressway, on hold for six years, has been revived, minus a leg connecting to Oakland.
- Turnpike Commission Chairman Sean Logan told the Senate Transportation Committee that it’s continuing obligation to pay PennDOT $450 million per year is the commission’s greatest concern.
- It is probably inevitable, whether now or a bit later, that those quaint Turnpike call boxes will go away. A measure in the House would allow them to be dismantled, as the proliferation of cell phones has made them all but obsolete.
- Former PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch will return to McCormick Taylor, his former engineering firm, in its Harrisburg office, in an “advisory role.”
- PennDOT has launched a work zone safety outreach initiative across the state. Here’s the word from Indiana County.
- In a primer about seal coating versus asphalt paving, the Post-Gazette’s Jon Schmitz notes that Act 89 has enabled PennDOT to begin reversing a trend and return to higher quality highway restoration work.
- A 2008 federal law is putting the squeeze on passenger rail in many states.
- PennDOT has begun work on a troubled stretch of I-78 in Berks County, an example of a project that will ultimately improve safety.