By Varsovia Fernandez
and Rob Wonderling
Last week, a new report identified the most congested corridors in the Philadelphia area, and calculated that congestion costs local drivers about $3.4 billion annually in wasted time and fuel.
The report, issued by TRIP, a transportation research group, noted that some commutes cost individual motorists as much as $2,301 annually or $44 weekly - including 125 hours stuck in traffic per year.
Though this trend is increasing, lawmakers in Harrisburg can relieve the pain.
This week, members of the General Assembly are working on a comprehensive and sustainable transportation funding plan that contains adequate investment in all elements of Pennsylvania's mobility network: highways, bridges, transit systems, ports, and airports.
A strong transportation system is the lifeblood of a robust economy, and now is the time to reverse decades of insufficient funding, maintenance backlogs, and neglected capital improvements. And any long-term funding plan must include all modes of transportation. A "solution" without adequate funding for public transit is no solution at all.
More than two years ago, Gov. Corbett's transportation commission called for raising an additional $2 billion annually to meet infrastructure needs. The report not only included a list of possible revenue sources, but ideas about modernization and cost savings at the Department of Transportation. Many aspects of the report have been addressed but, without additional revenue, Pennsylvania will fall further behind.
For decades, infrastructure improvements have been funded principally by a tax on gasoline. But due in part to increased fuel-efficiency standards, Pennsylvania now collects less fuel-tax revenue per mile traveled than it has at any time in the past.
Additional revenue, if immediately and properly invested, would go a long way toward allowing the commonwealth to repair aging roads and bridges, while meeting the capital requirements for our mass-transit systems.
Transportation investments are particularly important as the economy struggles to recover. Transportation funding leads to both construction jobs and manufacturing jobs, and the projects enhance the commonwealth's economic competitiveness and lead to economic growth and more jobs. Robust transit networks, particularly in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, drive the metro regions that provide most of the state's economic activity.
The time is right to support job creation, increase safety, relieve congestion, lower commuting costs, reduce pollution, and boost economic vitality.
Lawmakers should pass a comprehensive transportation package this week. There's not a moment to lose.