New Castle News

Closer Look

September 25, 2013

Lawmakers focus turns to transportation funding

HARRISBURG — State Rep. Kurt Masser, R-Northumberland County, was one of the most outspoken proponents of liquor privatization in the state House in the early summer.

On the floor of the General Assembly, Masser, a restaurateur, complained that about the only product served in his restaurants that aren’t delivered to the business are the booze products sold by the state store system.

But Friday morning, Masser said while he is “cautiously optimistic” the Legislature will accomplish one of the big policy goals established by Gov. Tom Corbett earlier this year, liquor privatization may be the least important.

“I’d love to see” liquor privatization, Masser said. “But it’s not going to get anyone killed if we don’t do it.”

The same cannot necessarily be said about transportation funding in a state with 4,000 structurally deficient bridges, he noted.

It was a sentiment echoed word-for-word by state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming County.

“We are sitting on a ticking time bomb,” Yaw added.

Pennsylvania has the third largest number of bridges in the United States, but the most bridges identified as being structurally deficient.

In addition, the department of transportation announced over the summer that weight limits are being placed on 1,000 bridges that need repairs but won’t get them unless the state Legislature passes a transportation funding plan.

An investigation by the Associated Press found there are 1,350 bridges known to be “fracture critical,” in addition to the bridges identified as structurally deficient.

A bridge is deemed “fracture critical” when it does not have redundant protections and is at risk of collapse if a single, vital component fails.

A bridge is “structurally deficient” when it is in need of rehabilitation or replacement because at least one major component of the span has advanced deterioration or other problems that lead inspectors to deem its condition “poor” or worse.

There are 577 bridges in Pennsylvania that are both fracture critical and structurally deficient, the AP found.

Efforts to pour money into road and bridge repairs derailed when the issue became informally linked with liquor privatization. The Senate passed a transportation funding plan and the House passed a bill that would dismantle the state’s liquor monopoly.

But at the 11th hour before the end of the budget year, both plans died in a stalemate as lawmakers were crippled waiting for the other chamber to act.

As Masser’s remarks suggest, there may be momentum building to act on transportation funding in the House even without a liquor plan in the Senate.

Finding a solution will still by tricky because transportation funding could be hamstrung by a Catch-22: Democrats want the plan to be more expensive, but the bigger the price tag, the less likely it is that Republicans will buy into it.

“How we find that sweet spot remains to be seen,” said state Rep. Dick Stevenson, R-Mercer County.

Stevenson said there is such division within the House Republican caucus over transportation funding that any successful bill is going to need Democratic support.

“The question is, “How do we find a bipartisan solution?” Stevenson said.

There is consensus about the need for action, and intense pressure for Republican Gov. Tom Corbett to notch a victory before 2014, when he stands for re-election.

Even some Democrats believe the time may be right for a transportation funding plan.

“I’d give that one a good strong chance,” said Rep. Jaret Gibbons, D-Lawrence County.

“I don’t hold high hopes for liquor privatization or the pension reforms.”

(Email: jfinnerty@cnhi.com)

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Closer Look
  • Yauger.jpg Yauger enters guilty plea in federal court

    The former executive director of the local intermediate unit has entered a guilty plea in federal court.

     

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lottery.jpg Lottery officials: Seniors should get smaller payout

    State lottery officials say less means more for seniors. The lottery took in $3.8 billion in sales last year and will give more than $1 billion of it — or 28.5 percent — to programs for senior citizens.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • phone.jpg Attorney general warns of phone scams

    Assorted scams in the commonwealth have prompted a warning from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane said several scams have been reported to the Bureau of Consumer Protection in recent weeks.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • disability.jpg Disabilities group unveils new icon

    Disability Options Network is joining forces with the Accessible Icon Project. Officials of the community organization, located at 1929 E. Washington St., said its new icon will replace the current international symbol for accessibility.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • well.jpg Auditor: State doesn’t have enough inspectors to monitor wells

    The state’s 83 well inspectors face a daunting enough challenge keeping tabs on 120,000 active oil and gas wells that have been drilled over the last century.

     

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • vote.jpg Independent hopefuls may widen gubernatorial field

    Just when Pennsylvania voters were getting used to the idea of a gubernatorial election showdown between Republican incumbent Tom Corbett and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf, other hopefuls may soon be joining the fray.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • manna.jpg John K. Manna: Measuring the money

    Should we even bother to have an election in November? By some accounts, maybe the results of some contests are already in.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • shooting.jpg Man injured in city shooting

    A man was flown to a Pittsburgh hospital Thursday morning following a shooting on West Lincoln Avenue.

     

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • police.jpg Police: Man pulls gun on construction workers

    Construction workers in Neshannock Township flagged down police Thursday claiming a business owner had pulled a gun on them.

     

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shooting.jpg Shooting witness arrested for giving false name

    State police have arrested a second Detroit area man after questioning him about Sunday’s fatal shooting in Ellwood City. DeMarco Dorian Hoskins, 22, of Highland Park, Mich., was the third man in a private car that transported the deceased to look for a hospital. Hoskins allegedly gave police a false identity when they questioned him as witness.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content
Section Teases
Must Read
Continuous Super Bowl Coverage