Senate Hearing Uncovers $1 Billion in Losses to Transportation System

Harrisburg:  The Senate Transportation Committee held a hearing on Tuesday, May 12 with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (Turnpike) that uncovered over $1 billion in revenue losses to the state’s transportation system.

“Governor Wolf’s overreaching executive orders on COVID-19 will dismantle the multimodal transportation system of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Kim Ward (R-39) who chairs the committee.  “The transportation program was fiscally constrained before COVID-19.  Now, the future of funding our highways, public transportation, airports and other assets is in jeopardy.”

Governor Wolf’s statewide stay-at-home order caused significant traffic reductions on PennDOT highways and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, leading to less revenue collected from the liquid fuels tax and tolls, respectively.  Further, Governor Wolf’s arbitrary list of life-sustaining businesses originally caused the shutdown of all highway projects – the only state in the country to take such an aggressive action that left 50,000 highway contractors unemployed.

Acting PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian, P.E., testified that the projected transportation revenue impacts will mean at least $800 million less in our construction and maintenance programs and over $100 million less available for multimodal initiatives.

The message from Turnpike CEO Mark Compton was a similar tone.  The Turnpike estimated toll revenues declined by approximately $118 million.  The revenue loss facing the Turnpike is forcing the delay of the next Act 44 payment until October, which means public transportation will not receive a quarterly payment of $112 million in July.

“Pennsylvania’s transportation system is the foundation of a strong economy, and we need a reliable system to help Pennsylvania recover from the global pandemic,” said Senator Ward.  “An estimated loss of $1 billion to our transportation program will have a significant impact on highway safety, economic development and mobility for this year and next year.”

Pennsylvania will receive financial relief from the federal CARES Act, including $1.1 billion for public transit agencies and $239 million for airports.  Congress is also evaluating whether to pass a $50 billion stimulus package for roads and bridges.

In addition to the financial losses, PennDOT noted there are approximately 3,000 employees who have not returned to work, creating a backlog in customer transactions at Driver License Centers such as title transfers and rescheduling driver license exams.

“The Wolf Administration has been operating in a vacuum and ignoring the General Assembly in our state’s response efforts to COVID-19,” said Senator Ward.  “It is my hope that we will work together to address these challenges as we enter the next phase of reopening Pennsylvania.”

A recording of the hearing as well as testimonies received are available at:  transportation.pasenategop.com.

 

Contact:  Nolan Ritchie nritchie@pasen.gov