Transportation is at a pivotal moment. Technology and innovation gives us an opportunity to reinvent transportation in a way that is smarter, cleaner, safer, more equitable and more efficient than ever before.
Moreover, the pandemic has put a spotlight on our transportation networks: not only how essential they are, but how fragile they can be without an adequate and sustained public commitment to invest in them.
At PennDOT, we take our responsibility as stewards of mobility very seriously. For years, we’ve been concerned about declining gas tax revenues, and the erosion of the funding source that we rely on most to support our vast highway and bridge network. PennDOT’s latest assessment places the annual gap of its needs in all state-level modes and facilities at $9.3 billion, growing to an annual $14.5 billion gap by 2030. Additionally, infrastructure maintained by local governments faces an annual shortfall of nearly $4 billion, growing to $5.1 billion per year by 2030.
Last fall, I established the Office of Alternative Funding to explore how we can modernize transportation funding in Pennsylvania.
We started the PennDOT Pathways initiative, through which conducted an extensive Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study to determine how best to analyze new future-focused sources of funding that could better serve our communities. An early PEL finding was that bridge tolling was a viable near-term solution that can provide the funds to repair or replace costly interstate bridges without using PennDOT’s current funding, which in turn allows those funds to be used for other critical projects. The Pennsylvania Public Private Partnership board approved the Major Bridge P3 initiative in November 2020, which allowed us to pursue this option. We’ve identified nine candidate bridges around the state and are currently conducting public outreach and environmental assessments for them.
Last March, Governor Wolf signed an Executive Order establishing the Transportation Revenue Options Commission (TROC). I was proud to chair this commission, alongside nearly 50 transportation, economic, and community stakeholders from the public and private sectors, including majority and minority leaders from the House and Senate Transportation and Appropriations committees. The PA Chamber was also represented on TROC by President and CEO Gene Barr. On July 30th, TROC delivered a final report to the governor, which outlines the commission’s review of several potential revenue sources.
We’re also pleased with the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the largest federal infrastructure investment in decades. This investment will help our state and local dollars go farther, as we work to modernize our infrastructure while creating sustainable, good-paying jobs that will be transformative of our transportation system and our local economies. These critical investments – along with state-level solutions – will help close Pennsylvania’s growing transportation funding gap, and connect Pennsylvanians to opportunity and each other, and move us forward.
I’m honored that the PA Chamber recently invited me to be the keynote speaker at the 2022 Infrastructure Roundtable to discuss these important topics.
Yassmin Gramian, P.E., is Secretary of PennDOT.