Dire Financial Straits at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

The Pennsylvania Turnpike, the state Liquid Fuels Tax, state police, municipal finances, public transit—all play a role in Pennsylvania's big transportation funding mess.

2 minute read

April 4, 2019, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Toll Road

George Sheldon / Shutterstock

Mike Wereschagin reports that Pennsylvania transportation officials are raising alarms about the state of the state's infrastructure funding:

Despite having the highest gas tax in the country, PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards has warned House appropriators that her agency is billions of dollars short of what’s needed to maintain one of the largest networks of roadways in the country.

More specifically:

More than a decade after the Legislature decided to squeeze billions of dollars from the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the superhighway network is on the brink of “catastrophe,” with a debt load that will eclipse the amount borrowed by all other state government agencies next year, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has warned.

Wereschagin provides more details on the state's Liquid Fuels Tax, which is the highest in the country (even above California). According to Wereschagin, the state police agency is taking up a lot more of the revenue from that tax, doubling its budget from 2001-02 through 2016-17. "What had been a $570 million budget ballooned to $1.2 billion as an ever-growing number of municipalities abandoned the cost of local police departments and began relying on state troopers instead, according to a 2018 House budget briefing document."

The article also notes the incredible risk the state's transportation funding quagmire poses to public transit authorities in the state and describes the maintenance plan that can't keep up with the needs to repair existing highways.

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