Transportation funding bill

Fantastic News!! PA State Senator Andy Dinniman Announces $14.5 Million Award to Paoli Transportation Project!

I just received the following press release from State Senator Andy Dinniman’s office  — what wonderful, unbelievable news!!

Dinniman Announces $14.5 Million for Paoli Transportation Center Project

WEST CHESTER (November 25) – State Senator Andrew Dinniman today announced that $14.5 million in funding has been awarded toward the Paoli Transportation Project.

“This announcement represents my determination to take one the most significant steps forward in the 30-year history of the Paoli Regional Transportation Center,” said Dinniman. “Paoli and the Great Valley Corporate Center have long served as an economic engine for Chester County. The proposed transportation center and train station at Paoli will ensure that our regional infrastructure continues to provide incentives for entrepreneurs from local small-business owners to international corporations, to call Chester County home.”

Funding for the Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center is a vital component of the proposal to relocate and expand the current station to a new site near the existing facility. Specifically, state funding will be directed toward roadway realignment and widening to accommodate the new and expanded regional transportation center. The proposed modern transportation hub in Paoli will improve access for buses, shuttles, and taxis; significantly increase commuter parking to meet both current demand and provide for future ridership; and improve vehicular traffic and reduce congestion for surrounding roadways.

“In light of recent transportation funding legislation in Harrisburg, I worked to ensure Chester County benefited directly from this funding package,” Dinniman continued. “Despite the efforts by some local officials in the House of Representatives to block this vital funding, I am pleased to announce that significant support will be directed for improvement projects such as the Paoli Regional Transportation Center.”

In addition to securing funding for the Paoli Transportation Center, Dinniman announced that more than $123 million in transportation funding will be directed to improvement projects throughout his current legislative district. These projects include $36 million for the repair and replacement of bridges, $17 million for regional roadway and pedestrian-use safety improvements, almost $69 million for roadway repaving, expansion improvement, and other traffic congestion mitigation project throughout Chester County.

“The key to the continuation and growth of our regional economy is directly linked to the strength of our infrastructure,” said Dinniman, noting the 76,000 new jobs estimated to come to Chester County between now and 2040. “With this in mind, I will continue to fight for support of Chester County and will work to ensure that important projects, such as the Paoli Transportation Center, are fully funded and completed.”

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JUST IN: Third time is the charm – House passes $2.4 billion transportation funding bill

Just in from Harrisburg – tonight a third vote was taken on the transportation funding bill and it passed 104-95!  Apparently, Gov. Corbett managed to persuade some of his fellow Republicans to switch sides!  At this time, I have no information on how our local elected officials voted except that 63 Republicans and 41 Democrats approved the bill.

Last night the transportation funding bill failed twice to get the necessary votes.  If I were a betting person, I would have bet that after last night’s two failed attempts, that was the end of the road for the proposed transportation funding for 2013 and probably 2014.  Guess third time’s the charm!

The bill will provide $2.4 billion in new funding for the state’s roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems over the next five years. This represents a 39 percent increase in current transportation spending.  The breakdown of the $2.4 billion funding package is $1.8 billion for road, bridge and tunnel improvements, $500 million for public transit systems and $144 million for rail freight, ports and airports.

It should be noted that the bill must still win final passage from the House and the Senate.  Although the Senate overwhelming approved the transportation bill in June it was without the amended House version that lifts the threshold at which public projects must pay union wages.  There’s a clause that would lower construction workers’ pay on some road and bridge projects that are below $100K.

With the approval of the transportation bill, it looks  like the Paoli Transit Center and the PA turnpike widening projects are back on the possible funding table!

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PA Transportation funding bill fails – what does this mean for the future of Paoli Transit Center and Turnpike widening project?

Unfortunately, the clock just ran out for transportation funding in Pennsylvania, at least for the near future.  Late on Monday night, the proposed $2.4 billion PA transportation funding bill was narrowly defeated on the House floor.   The House legislators voted 98 – 103 against the bill, which would have provided new funding for much needed repairs on our roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems.  So close and yet so far away – what does this vote mean for the future of the Paoli Transit Center and the PA Turnpike widening projects in Tredyffrin?

Prior to the House vote on the transportation bill, a critical Op-Ed, ‘Warren Kampf – Too Extreme for Tredyffrin’ written by Tredyffrin Democratic Party Chair Dariel Jamieson appeared in Main Line Suburban.  The article focused on State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157) lack of support for the transportation bill, making a claim that Kampf took a ‘no tax’ pledge and that he [Kampf] is “standing in the way of job creation and prosperity.”

Kampf immediately responded to Jamieson’s criticism with his own Op-Ed, ‘Kampf Refutes Jamieson’s no tax increase pledge’ suggesting that she [Jamieson] needed to “stick to the facts, instead of creating her own” and stating that he never took a ‘no tax’ pledge.  Kampf restated that his opposition of the transportation-funding bill was a decision based on 60,000 of his constituents not wanting an increase in their gas prices to pay for the infrastructure improvements. Kampf separates his vote against the transportation funding bill from his support of local projects, claiming that he does support the Paoli Transit Center and the turnpike widening project.

In my opinion, the immediate future of the Paoli Transit Center was tied directly to the passage of transportation funding bill.  I understand there was no guarantee that the money would have come to Paoli if the bill had passed but clearly without this state funding the future of the project now looks bleak.  This is not a ‘doom and gloom’ forecast, more of a reality check. Money begets money – state funding was required for the transit center if the project was to receive federal funding.  I had heard that if the transportation bill failed, the transit center was not going to stay on SEPTA’s funding list.  So … where exactly is the funding going to come from for the transit center?  Tomorrow night is the third (and final) Paoli Transportation Open House, 4:30 – 8 PM at the Township Building.  In light of the defeated transportation bill, it will be curious to see how SEPTA representatives field funding questions at the Open House!

I think that the future of the PA turnpike widening and associated sound walls and storm water issues is more of a grey area.  Residents whose homes are located along the PA Turnpike have been working on storm water and sound wall issues for years. These issues have affected property values, saleability etc. The PA Turnpike Commission previously stated that if the transportation-funding bill was not passed, their Capital Plan would be reduced by removing major projects. It’s unclear if the turnpike’s construction project in Tredyffrin Township will stay on the front burner or now move to the back of the stove.

Without the House vote to approve transportation funding, when (or if) will the funding for the state’s infrastructure improvements resurface?  Once the momentum is lost, it is difficult to regain – since the funding was not approved in 2013, it’s highly unlikely that anything will happen during 2014 (election year).

In his response to Jamieson in Main Linen Suburban, Kampf reiterated his support of the Paoli Transit Center, but … how does he show his support for the project?  With the defeat of the transportation funding bill, Rep. Kampf is going to have many very unhappy Paoli business owners who were counting on state financial support through this transportation bill, now looking to him for answers. And if the PA Turnpike Commission removes the Tredyffrin section of the widening project from their ‘to do’ list, 4,000 local residents are not going to be pleased and will want someone to blame.

I may not personally agree with Rep. Kampf on his vote not to support the transportation funding bill, but I do give him credit for his unfaltering commitment.  He reported that he has 60,000 constituents who did not want him to support the transportation bill because it’s funding was tied to higher gas prices.  Wrong or right, he never wavered on the transportation funding bill and his vote reflected that decision.

Bottom line … without the approval of the transportation funding bill, the residents of Pennsylvania are left with deteriorating roads and bridges and an uncertain future for the Paoli Transit Center and the PA turnpike widening project.

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