Pennsylvania spends more on road expansion than repair

Pennsylvania spends more on new road expansion than we do on maintaining our existing network – despite financial liabilities mounting & conditions not improving. Meanwhile, we just raised the gas tax.

Here is a link to an eye opening study by Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common sense.

State departments of transportation (DOTs) are spending more money building new roads than maintaining the ones they have—despite the fact that roads are crumbling, financial liabilities are mounting and conditions are not improving for America’s drivers.
-Executive Summary

Here’s the statistical breakdown for PA:
*dollar figures in millions

Average annual state expenditures on road expansion versus repair, 2009–2011

Average annual state expenditures on road expansion versus repair, 2009–2011 From “Repair Priorities 2014 Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads.

So we have above representing Pennsylvania’s most recent spending reality. (Again remember, we just raised gas taxes to address a “crisis” level concern. Which of course is pretty much universally acknowledged as a band-aid at best.) This in my opinion is a problem in and of itself, but meanwhile here are the results of this failed strategy…

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Here is another little tidbit from the report PA specific:
Pennsylvania as stated above is spending 877 million a year in repair. What’s the liability? 2,203 million. That’s a deficiency of 1,326 million annually.

Pennsylvania reflects the Nationwide trend of spending billions for marginal benefit. “States spent $20.4 billion on road expansion each year between 2009 and 2011. During that time our state-owned road network increased by 8,822 lane-miles, less than 1 percent. Meanwhile, America’s driving measured in vehicle-miles traveled, remained fairly stable during this two-year period, yet traffic congestion in urban areas did not change. It’s a statistical fact: States’ investments in expansion are yielding little gain for drivers despite the substantial cost.”

My question is whose going take some leadership in Pennsylvania? Road conditions are deteriorating yet our spending problems are focused on expansion which at best provide negligible results in level of service improvements. Whose going to break the broken cycle?

I’m looking towards our local state officials for leadership here. @Senator Pat Browne, @Representative Ryan Mackenzie, @Representative Justin Simmons, @Representative Michael Schlossberg (House transportation committee). Anyone paying attention to this?


Gas Tax – Economics – Transportation – Better Places

It’s time to stop putting off tough conversations. No one encapsulates the message better then This short piece by does a great job of giving a concise overview.

It’s all about re-examining the intersection of financing, design and long term financial viability of our places. The top down gas tax system is failing. The answer isn’t raising the tax. In fact, the answer isn’t in the inefficiencies of a top down system at all. Our system is one where localities get back nickels and dimes on the dollar. It will never workout over the long run. The math doesn’t work.

Let’s scale back DC’s role in the equation. Turn the system on it’s head. Return local control. Make developers pay the true costs of projects by rolling back big gov’t subsidies. Then municipalities will start only building the supporting infrastructure that they can actually afford to maintain. Organic incremental growth is healthier for our local economies. That is the financial foundation of smart growth.

Market solutions to land use issues – Highway Congestion

I believe in market-based, fiscally conservative solutions to land use and transportation challenges faced by the nation.

These issues are highlighted locally. The proposal to reconstruct and widen Route 22 from four to six lanes between 15th & Airport Rd. will cost about $175 million dollars. Huge amount of money. We’re all paying for it in the form of the gas tax passed by the PA legislature.

Most acknowledge Rt. 22 has reached critical mass (in terms of convenience). The issue is how we address it. So on the horizon is a widening project with no accountability for results with a high likelihood that in 10 years the 6 shiny new lanes will again be gridlocked. It’s happens enough with widening projects all around the nation. Agency throws money at a highway but it rarely  fixes the underlying issues. In enough cases to raise alarm bells the new lanes simply fill up. So why do we repeat the same mistakes?

Big picture the vicious circle is astronomically beyond our ability to pay for. The system is unsustainable. This is evidenced by the crisis level of infrastructure issues in the United States. Here in PA most believe the gas tax increase won’t fix the underlying issues. It’s another bandaid.

So what’s an alternative? Is there a market based-conservative approach? I believe there is and a model is out there.

In Virginia through a public/private partnership a private company helped fund the installation of express lanes on I-495. The company Transurban financed, designed and built the project with review and oversight from VDOT. The company operates and maintains the Express Lanes.

Widening projects happen because people complain about congestion. Since highways are a public good and should be available to everyone it’s important we don’t create barriers. A dedicated express lane doesn’t. It just creates a market for convenience. Those who want to pay for convenience pay for it. Those that don’t, aren’t forced to.

Here Jim Bacon talks about the 495 express lane project in Virginia. The program has so far seen lower then expected revenue.  Jim attributes it to reduced traffic overall and the recession. Personally I’m ok with that, since the alternative would have been traditional funding mechanisms. (aka taxpayers). Based on what I’ve read this will eventually be a profitable venture for Transurban. Alot of the issues were timing.  And again, if it never does become profitable then the risk was all on them not taxpayers. That’s what the market is all about.

The express-lanes concept is appealing for several reasons. First, the private sector raised most of the money to pay for the expansion of Interstate 495 capacity — money the state did not have — and assumed the financial risk should traffic and revenues prove disappointing. – Bacons Rebellion