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Thread: Pennsylvania Commission Reccomends Public Private Transportation Projects

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
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    Pennsylvania Commission Reccomends Public Private Transportation Projects

    An interesting idea. While this article focuses on the highway side, the commission made the same recommendations on the transit side (which in reality means contracting out more routes):

    NewsReport: State needs to raise $1.6 billion
    November 19, 2006
    HARRISBURG A recommendation that Pennsylvania needs to raise $1.6 billion through taxes and other means to overhaul its transportation system hit like a ton of bricks around here.

    The report by the governor's Transportation Funding and Reform Commission puts transportation issues on the front burner in the new legislative session that starts in January.

    Few dispute the commission's analysis that the state's road-and-bridge network and mass transit systems are at a serious juncture. PennDOT can't build highways fast enough to keep pace with traffic, bridges are being closed due to structural defects and mass transit systems lack a stable revenue base.

    The commission's medicine is tough to swallow politically because it proposes a set of tax hikes at both the state and local level. The commission is recommending hikes in the state gasoline tax, the state realty transfer tax and motor vehicle registration fees to meet some of the needs. Local governments would get new authority to levy taxes to help pay for mass transit needs.

    This summary is a simplification of a very complicated and intertwined revenue plan. Just the proposal alone to hike the state oil franchise tax by 11.5 cents a gallon to pay for highway and bridge work will be a tough sell in a voter-wary General Assembly with 56 new members.

    The revenue plan is almost designed to draw attention to the other side of the commission's report: the recommendation that Pennsylvania "aggressively" look at creating public-private partnerships to finance and undertake transportation projects.

    Sounds like a yawner. But here is what it's really about.

    The state would seek a massive cash infusion to pay for road and bridge projects by leasing one of its biggest and best-known assets: the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

    The state would lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private firm for 75 years for a sum in the range of $30 billion. The $30 billion would be put in a trust fund to generate $3 billion annually for transportation projects.

    The private firm would take over the operation and maintenance of the Turnpike perhaps absorbing turnpike commission employees. The firm would reengineer the turnpike adding high-speed lanes, electronic toll collection and even stretches of road where the traffic flow can be reversed to accommodate commuters.

    In addition, the private firm would have the right to sell lucrative development rights around the turnpike interchanges to developers of hotels, business parks and entertainment complexes.

    The lease contract would set performance standards for the turnpike operator to abide by down to such details as removal of road kill. The state would continue to hold eminent domain powers if additional property is needed for a turnpike construction project. Rep. Richard Geist, R-Blair, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, outlined this scenario at a forum sponsored by the Commonwealth Foundation. Geist has sponsored legislation authorizing public-private partnerships in the transportation sector.

    He envisions smaller partnerships could be formed so private firms could undertake the rebuilding of sections of the interstate system, including Interstate 80. Geist's legislation will authorize PennDOT to solicit proposals for some projects and also consider unsolicited offers.

    If this idea wins acceptance, Geist's partnership bill would move in tandem with a constitutional amendment to make sure that all revenues generated from the sale or leasing of assets like the Turnpike are earmarked to transportation projects.

    Other states like Indiana, Virginia, Texas and Florida are using private capital to fund transportation projects. This will be one of the key policy issues facing Pennsylvanians in 2007.



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  2. #2
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    I don't think I like the idea of whoever takes over the PA turnpike getting development rights. They'll sell to the highest bidder and create traffic/sprawl on/along other roads, pushing massive costs onto taxpayers. The revenue from the tolls ought to be enough enticement for a lessee, if the Commonwealth decides it must come to this.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I don't knoww a lot about this topic but, having grown up in Pennsylvania, it always seemed to me that the way the PA Turnpike was set up (with designated areas for gas stations and food located on the thoroughfare and not in adjacent towns) was to minimize this type of interchange development and protect the character of the communities through which the road passes. It has been a way to curtail the proliferation of fast food chains, for example, where most of the business is from turnpike traffic, but locals have to deal with the fallout of having far more in their community than the local community could support on its own.

    Would allowing development around these interchanges be different from the current model? If so, what are the potential impacts on these areas? Its an interesting concept, though, and I appreciate the challenges the state faces in trying to fund new roads and improve/expand existing ones. Has this kind of thing happened elsewhere and what does the result look like?
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Clore's avatar
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    I'll agree with you there! WIth the way local/PA politcs are, we'll just get more ugly junk spreading across the land!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dharmster View post
    PennDOT can't build highways fast enough to keep pace with traffic, bridges are being closed due to structural defects and mass transit systems lack a stable revenue base.
    Isn't Pennsylvania one of the slowest growing states in the nation? Why would the state be so concerned about system expansion? PennDOT should be in a preservation and maintenance mode. (Unless of course the state wants to continue to financially support additional sprawl and even more infrastructure demands).

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    I don't knoww a lot about this topic but, having grown up in Pennsylvania, it always seemed to me that the way the PA Turnpike was set up (with designated areas for gas stations and food located on the thoroughfare and not in adjacent towns) was to minimize this type of interchange development and protect the character of the communities through which the road passes. It has been a way to curtail the proliferation of fast food chains, for example, where most of the business is from turnpike traffic, but locals have to deal with the fallout of having far more in their community than the local community could support on its own.

    Would allowing development around these interchanges be different from the current model? If so, what are the potential impacts on these areas? Its an interesting concept, though, and I appreciate the challenges the state faces in trying to fund new roads and improve/expand existing ones. Has this kind of thing happened elsewhere and what does the result look like?
    I live within 1/2 miles of one of the Turnpike interchanges. I've been hoping for some radical changes in how the Turnpike operates. Between Exit 314 & Exit 358 it's a commuter highway, but it's design completely betrays that fact. There is no reason to have an 8 mile span between exits in such a densely populated area such as the span between the Philadelphia interchange and the Willow Grove interchange. The toll plazas are huge liabilities as well....they were built in a space designed for 3 or 4 tool booths, yet some interchanges have 20 or more. There isn't any more room for expansion, yet the need is evident.

    Is mass transit the answer? Our regional rail system relies heavily upon it's hub & spoke design, so there isn't any ability to commute between suburbs except by bus. The reality of the area today is that there are major employment centers along the Turnpike corridor, and those people have only one choice for that commute. That's right, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which was not designed for that function.

    There's a stalled plan for a cross-county rail that connects several Septa lines to these suburban employment centers as well as the also stalled Schuylkill Valley Metro rail project. It's a big dollar project ($2 billion?), but it deserves more consideration.

    I know I have less than 10 posts, so nobody knows me. I apologize for the rant, but it's obviously a big concern for me.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian safege's avatar
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    Overhead suspended light rail would fit in that environment, be less expensive, and twice as fast as current light rail providers. The route you mentioned sounds like a traditional beltway, but a transit beltway to link suburbs.
    Psychotics are consistently inconsistent. The essence of sanity is to be inconsistently inconsistent.
    -Larry Wall

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally posted by safege View post
    Overhead suspended light rail would fit in that environment, be less expensive, and twice as fast as current light rail providers. The route you mentioned sounds like a traditional beltway, but a transit beltway to link suburbs.
    Thr ROW they would be using is an existing freight rail corridor that parallels the turnpike called the Trenton Cut-off.

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