The recent tragedy in Minneapolis where a major highway bridge
collapsed, killing several people and injuring many more, brought the
safety of our nation's public bridges and highways under the microscope.
Last month, Governor Ed Rendell signed legislation into law that
devotes $317 million to fixing our state's ailing mass transit system,
with some funding for highway and bridge maintenance. Unfortunately,
the Governor's plan falls short by not addressing new state highway and
bridge needs for the rest of Pennsylvania.
There are many needs in central and western Pennsylvania for new
and expanded highways to deal with safety and traffic volume concerns.
Specifically in the 34th Senatorial District, the South Central Centre
County Transportation Study, which makes 322 four lanes in Centre County
and the I-99 / I-80 interchange remain unfunded, as does the Central
Susquehanna Valley Thruway, the four-lane highway around Lewisburg and
Shamokin Dam in Union County.
All of these projects, and many more like them Central and
Western Pennsylvania, need serious attention, but without a dedicated
source of funding they will remain at a complete standstill. Further,
not one of these projects will be completed as a result of the bill the
Governor just signed; a bill that I opposed. That is because this
flawed legislation did not have one penny dedicated to new roads and
In order to fund these important projects, we need to think beyond the
customary approach of simply relying on taxpayer dollars and examine
what successful strategies have worked in other states.
I believe Pennsylvania's roadways can benefit from the many advantages
of public-private partnerships (PPPs), which are contractual agreements
between the state and a private sector entity in which both parties
contribute towards improving the state's transportation system.
Currently, 21 states have passed legislation providing the legal
authority for PPP's to address public transportation needs.
PPP's essentially create a win-win situation for all parties by
contractually creating specific roles, risks and rewards for each entity
involved. This incentive-based system naturally motivates all parties
to achieve maximum performance while remaining flexible and cooperative
to produce positive results.
The benefits to the state, the private partners and the citizens
include: faster project completion times reducing inconvenient
construction delays, improved roadway quality through the use of
innovative materials and collaborative planning, the use of private
resources in place of taxpayer dollars, and project cost savings.
It is only through innovative attempts such as this that we who reside
outside of the Philadelphia area can see increased capacity and new
highways for safer travel. I am committed to this course of action
because we must find a solution for the ever decreasing pots of money
for new highway construction.
I truly believe that PPP's can have a significant, positive impact on
Pennsylvania's highway and bridge infrastructure. This fall I will be
orchestrating a working group of like-minded senators to develop
legislation that would grant authority for PPP's in Pennsylvania.