By Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr.
Pennsylvania is at a crossroads. We have tremendous potential to capture emerging technology and industries while ensuring our revenue is responsibly allocated.
As the state Senator of the 35th District, I have the honor to represent the constituents of Cambria, Bedford and Clearfield Counties. I was sent to Harrisburg to ensure that tax dollars are allocated fairly and efficiently – a task I do not take lightly.
In January 2021, I was appointed Majority Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. My goal at the outset was to take a holistic approach to addressing all areas of transportation. My focus was to review the work of the Committee and establish a viable, clear direction forward.
Transportation is like the law — it is in everything. Whether it be commuting to work, school or recreation via automobiles, buses, trains or planes, every Pennsylvanian deals with transportation on a daily basis.
I’ve said time and again that transportation is a core service for which we pay taxes. People pay taxes because they want good roads to drive on, good schools to send their children to, and police and fire protection. We must ensure that our infrastructure is properly funded and maintained.
Accordingly, I introduced a multi-faceted piece of legislation to address all areas of transportation — from multi-modal to increased rail service, to emerging Electric Vehicles and Highly Automated Vehicle technology that is headquartered in western Pennsylvania. The DRIVE SMART Act aims to reform and invest in the Keystone State’s multi-modal transportation system. Reform legislation includes developing a roadmap for the testing and deployment of HAVs. Investment legislation covers replacing the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s risky Public-Private Transportation Partnership bridge tolling procurement with an innovative Federal bond program called “GARVEE,” particularly when the bond rates are low. Finally, multi-modal legislation exemplifies a reprioritization of current funding to improve Amtrak stations between Pittsburgh to Harrisburg and to build safer trail crossings at roadways.
Collectively, the DRIVE SMART Act is a short-term and long-term plan to overhaul the Commonwealth’s transportation system by reforming and investing in our roads and bridges, public transportation, airports, passenger rail and active transportation. This “PA Forward” endeavor will cut transportation costs, support Pennsylvania-based highway design and construction companies, provide local enabling revenue options to grow mass transit in Southwestern and Southeastern Pennsylvania, develop land owned by any airport and prominently rank the needs of rural access to passenger rail and equitable access to trails, bike lanes and sidewalks. Investing in a smarter transportation infrastructure network will influence a vibrant economy and solidify Pennsylvania’s long-term prosperity.
I implore you to visit my website, https://www.senatorlangerholc.com/drive-smart-act/ to learn more about a smarter vision for this Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure and to provide feedback as we are continuously reviewing how to improve and prepare for the ever-changing demands and new norms of one of the largest transportation systems in the nation.
In addition, Congress is negotiating a $1 trillion physical infrastructure deal, known as the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act. If Congress passes IIJA, we will see historic investments in Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges, Amtrak service and public transportation, EV charging stations, aviation infrastructure, passenger and freight rail, inland waterways and broadband. If enacted, IIJA will invest nearly an additional $16 billion into the Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure and workforce network, complementing the DRIVE SMART Act.
Unfortunately, PennDOT has been unwilling to compromise on the P3 bridge tolling initiative, even with Congress’s unparalleled spending plan. The Department’s overreaching attempt to toll up to nine existing bridges must end. For the long-term health of Pennsylvania’s economy and hardworking Pennsylvanians, we can and must do better than a tacit approval for higher taxes, fees or tolls. To continue propelling PA forward, we must invest in smarter highways, railways and airways; a trusted public transportation system that sustains an essential workforce and improves our air quality; and a sophisticated network of modern technology, including EVs and HAVs.
My door is always open, and I am dedicated to continuing this mission of reforming and investing in this Keystone State’s transportation infrastructure network. The DRIVE SMART Act and IIJA hold a promising legacy if we can look to smarter solutions for every Pennsylvanian.
Senator Wayne Langerholc is Majority Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. He represents Pennsylvania’s 35th Senatorial District.