Opinion: Keep Pennsylvania Moving On Rail-Trails

By: Tom Sexton, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

America is changing in many ways, none more so than the way we get around.

Pennsylvanians are fortunate to have state and local leaders who understand the critical importance of providing options in our transportation landscape - trail systems, sidewalks, and bike paths integrated with transit, rail, and roads.

Providing such active transportation options produces healthier citizens, reduces congestion, and allows locals and visitors to properly connect with our cities and towns. It is a planning concept eagerly adopted by thriving communities around the world. Communities that attract new businesses and residents are heralded for high livability and desirable real estate, and, most importantly, they function best for the people who live in them.

Conversely, those cities and towns where transportation systems haven't evolved are regularly the ones suffering from population drain, with stagnant businesses, weak real estate markets, and low livability indexes.

Last year, the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission (TFAC) established by Gov. Corbett made recommendations for a comprehensive transportation funding strategy to support the balanced transportation investments we all hope to see.

The TFAC report promotes smart and balanced investments in all modes of transportation, exactly what a forward-thinking state like Pennsylvania should be pursuing.

Following these recommendations, the governor's proposed state transportation budget, which was released last month, uses innovative new state and local revenue sources, including a gradual uncapping of the oil company franchise tax, to make these investments possible.

The key now is for the state legislature to move quickly to put the TFAC plan, and the funding strategy it recommends, in motion.

Gov. Corbett's funding plan is supported by an incredibly diverse group of state and national transportation interests, including the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition, which includes the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, as well as the highway construction industry, public transit agencies, farm organizations, AARP, bicycle and pedestrian advocates, air and seaport interests, and railroad organizations.

It is crucial that this plan for multimodal transportation funding be enacted in the coming weeks in order to put Pennsylvanians to work building projects at the beginning of the construction season.

I am proud that Pennsylvania is a national leader in transportation reform. We need to continue this important progress by following the TFAC recommendations and approving Corbett's uncapping of the oil company franchise tax to provide a comprehensive transportation funding source.

Please demand that your elected state official keeps the interests of the people in mind, and commits to investing in an active transportation system that keeps us moving faster, healthier, and into the future.

Tom Sexton is the director of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Northeast regional office. Contact him via www.railstotrails.org.


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