Infrastructure improvements must be a priority

November 23, 2020
In The News

State Rep. Tim Hennessey, the chairman of the House Transportation committee, said the proposal to toll Pennsylvania bridges is still in the preliminary stages. “It’s not something people need to be alarmed about now,” he said.

That means it is exactly the time to be worried, or at least very aware of the proposal.

Lawmakers across the party spectrum said last week they support a move by a public-private partnership board that would allow tolling of traffic on major bridges in Pennsylvania. The move, they said, is necessary to help pay for repairs to bridges and roads across the state’s expansive road map.

How about instead of that movement, we make sure the tax dollars already allocated to repairing roads actually do it, while also finding a way to make rehabilitating the nation’s crumbling infrastructure a national priority?

“The needs of the interstate system are staggering,” State Rep. Mike Carroll, a Democrat from Luzerne County said. “There’s a reason so many states are raising the gas tax and looking to increase tolls.”

Among the issues hindering bridge and road renovation in Pennsylvania are the continued allocating of liquid fuel funds — to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year — away from repairs and to the state police, and a lack of funding from the federal government.

The first issue is something the General Assembly in Harrisburg is going to have to fix on its own and sooner rather than later. Pennsylvanians, we have stated in this space previously, were amendable to the nation’s highest gas tax — now second-highest behind California — as long as the money was spent fixing potholes and repairing crumbling bridges.

The second will require a federal initiative. All of the lawmakers The Daily Item hosted for editorial boards during the lead up to the election, from state Rep. David Rowe to state Sen. John Gordner and Congressmen Fred Keller and Dan Meuser all said infrastructure — roads, bridges, rail and even broadband internet — is something every politician at every level of government supports.

It’s never flashy and headline getting, but a huge road project creates jobs and presents numerous benefits to an area. Along with the construction jobs, other businesses may pop up around the road work, creating additional jobs. It can ease traffic patterns, which can improve the aesthetic in neighborhoods and even bump up property values.

Sure these projects can be an inconvenience — just ask home and business owners in Northumberland — but in the long run they make life better more often than not.

The costs of these projects aren’t going down anytime soon. The more we delay, the more costly they become.

Tolls aren’t the answer. A local, state and national focus is the way forward.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.