Flanked by leaders of Pennsylvania business, industry and labor, Rep. Rick Geist (R-Blair), Majority Chair of the House Transportation Committee, Monday called for a unified effort to create jobs in the Commonwealth by rebuilding and repairing roads and bridges.
The House recently passed public-private partnership (P3) legislation contained in House Bill 3. Rep. Geist said that is only the beginning of the overall mission. Similar legislation-- Senate Bill 344 (Rafferty-R-Montgomery)-- passed the Senate in December and is still in the House Transportation Committee.
“Now that the House has passed the P3 bill, I call on the Senate to continue the progress and for the governor to sign it,” said Rep. Geist. “There is no more pressing issue in transportation than the need to fund the repair, maintenance and expansion of our Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure. The solid support of the business, industry and labor communities underscores how important this mission is. It is an issue that transcends political lines as there is bipartisan support for action.”
Rep. Geist was joined by Bob Latham, executive vice president of Associated Pennsylvania Constructors; Sean Good, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry; Pam McCormick, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; Frank Rapaport, partner and head of the public-private partnership practice at McKenna, Long & Aldridge, LLP; Joe Gerdes, principal with BUILD Consultants; Pat Krebs, Bike Pennsylvania; Abe Amaros, Laborers International Union of North America; and representatives from Associated Pennsylvania Contractors; American Council of Engineering Companies/Pennsylvania Chapter and the Keystone Funding Coalition.
Rep. Geist said the P3 issue marks the beginning of a process of fulfilling one of the recommendations of the 2011 Transportation Funding Advisory Commission. He called it a blueprint for generating an additional $2.7 billion in revenue over a five-year period, designed to deal with the repair and replacement of nearly 5,000 structurally deficient bridges, the highest number in the nation.
Additionally, there approximately 8,000 miles of roadway in very poor condition in Pennsylvania.
A 2010 study by the State Transportation Advisory Committee stated an additional $3.5 billion per year is needed to fully meet the Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure needs.
“APC and its membership stands squarely with Chairman Geist in his recognition of the immediate and enormous challenge that is before us with regard to adequately funding Pennsylvania’s transportation system,” said Latham. “Everyone understands that addressing this problem will require increasing user fees, but many do not realize that the cost of not addressing the problem can be even greater.”
Latham added the cost of fuel and the amount of it spent has to be taken into consideration.
“If you waste as little as two to three gallons per week because of traffic congestion or detours, you’re paying an additional $8 to $12 per week and as gas prices go up, the more you pay,” said Latham. “The cost of fixing the problem is only 70 cents per week initially, increasing eventually to $2.50 per week, so we can pay to fix the problem or pay more to continue having the problem.”
Eric Madden, executive vice president of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania saluted Geist for continuing to press for action.
“Chairman Geist has been a leader in the field of infrastructure for many years,” said Madden. “He has always fought for the safe and convenient travel of our citizens and tourists, while promoting the necessities of keeping our economy moving on an efficient transportation system.”