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FULL PENNSYLVANIA LEGISLATOR INTERVIEWS ON TRANSPORTATION BILL

By LVEDC Staff on November 26, 2013

Editor’s Note: The following are the full questions and answers involving the Lehigh Valley legislators who voted to approve the Transportation Bill. Senator Mensch’s responses are from a November 21st news release.

State Sen. Pat Browne (R-16th)

LVEDC: What economic development impact will the just-passed transportation bill have on the Lehigh Valley?

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Browne (R-16th)

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Browne (R-16th)

Sen. Browne: Due to the current deteriorating condition of Pennsylvania roads and bridges and struggling transit systems, it was vital that this transportation plan was passed. It is imperative that the Department of Transportation has the resources to bring much needed repairs, replacement and new capacity to our outdated, overburdened and deficient roads and bridges. It would have been irresponsible for the state legislature not to pass and the governor not to sign such an incredibly significant initiative that will protect our citizens by ensuring safe roads and bridges as they travel throughout the Commonwealth. That is our obligation as state officials and is a core function of state government.

In addition, there is no doubt that this will spur economic development by providing jobs immediately to many out-of-work Pennsylvania residents as numerous rehabilitation, replacement and new construction projects get underway. It will provide quicker and safer avenues of travel and movement of goods and services, which in turn will save business owners money and help to keep the cost of their products lower for consumers. For businesses, loss of time navigating around closed roads and bridges or stuck in stand-still traffic on overburdened roads – which without this funding would have been the case – means loss of revenue and higher costs for customers. These transportation projects will provide a more efficient means of travel for residents, businesses, school buses and emergency services vehicles.

LVEDC: What are the specific transportation projects that will occur in your district and spur economic development?

Sen. Browne: This funding plan will provide the financial where-with-all to:

Guarantee the complete funding to widen U.S. Route 22 to six lanes and to widen Route 222 from the Berks County/Lehigh County line to the U.S. 222 Bypass in Trexlertown.

Replace and rehabilitate deficient bridges including, but not limited to: Schaffer Run Bridge; Schlicher’s Covered Bridge; the Eighth Street Bridge; Hokendauqua Creek Bridge; Camp Meeting Road Bridge; Hollenbachs Bridge; along with bridges on: Cedar Crest Boulevard; Route 100; Route 248; Kernsville Road; Route 512; Tilghman Street; and U.S. Route 22.

Resurface roads such as: Cedar Crest Boulevard; Route 100; Hamilton Street; Chew Street; Moorestown Road; Airport Road; Route 512; Route 248; Mack Boulevard; Brookside Road; Route 863; and U.S. Business 222.

LVEDC: Is it true that the City of Allentown will see a 70 percent increase in liquid fuel proceeds and, if so, what does that mean for the city?

Sen. Browne: The increase in revenue that will be generated from this transportation plan through the Liquid Fuels Funds for municipalities will increase. How much a municipality receives in Liquid Fuels Taxes is determined by a formula that weighs population (50 percent) and municipal lane miles (50 percent). These are just projections at this point, but it is believed that the revenues municipalities receive will increase statewide by 60 percent. So, for Allentown, with its size and number of roadways and driving lanes, it is possible to see a 70 percent increase in the city.

The funding means that Allentown will be able to:

Perform road maintenance along with safety and traffic calming improvements on: Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard; Hamilton Street, Chapel Avenue; Chew Street, Jefferson Street, Tilghman Street; Mack Boulevard; and, Union Boulevard.

Replace or rehabilitated city bridges including: Gordon Street Bridge; South 10th Street Bridge; and, Schreibers Arch Bridge

It will also help Allentown fund reconstruction of roads as the city works in conjunction with UGI’s replacement of gas pipelines in Allentown.

State Sen. Robert Mensch (R-24)

Pennsylvania Sen. Robert Mensch (R-24th)

Pennsylvania Sen. Robert Mensch (R-24th)

“Pennsylvania has more structurally deficient bridges – nearly 4,500 – than any other state in the nation, and 23 percent of its 44,000 miles of state-owned roads are in poor condition,” said Mensch.  “For the sake of safety and the economy we must act now, and this bipartisan legislation lays the groundwork for a 21st century transportation system.”

“The cost of doing nothing is great. A recent report by a national transportation group found that the poor state of Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges costs state residents $9.4 billion annually in vehicle operating costs, congestion delays and traffic accidents,” said Mensch. “It’s been 16 years since Pennsylvania last enacted a meaningful transportation funding program. Passage of this legislation will help fix aging bridges, unsafe roads, rail lines, airports and mass transit systems across Pennsylvania.”

State Rep. Michael Schlossberg (D-132nd)

LVEDC: What economic development impact will the just-passed Transportation Bill have on the Lehigh Valley? 

Pennsylvania Rep. Michael Schlossberg (D-132nd)

Pennsylvania Rep. Michael Schlossberg (D-132nd)

Rep. Schlossberg: The impact will be enormous.  State-wide, the bill will create 50,000-60,000 jobs and boost economic input by $2 billion.  In the Lehigh Valley and Allentown, this means thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in economic development. From a business perspective, businesses consistently rank mobility of workers, and their ability to get to work, as one of the top three factors in determining whether or not to move to an area. I remember speaking with Mayor (Edward) Hozza (Jr.) of Whitehall, and him discussing how devastating it was to be stuck in traffic with an out of town developer or potential new business recruit. Alleviating traffic problems and enhancing or mass transit means more businesses. It means more jobs. According to a prior study, the average Valley resident loses $2,639 to sitting in traffic and poor maintenance costs;  compare this to an estimated $2.50 a week that the average motorist will pay as a result of this legislation.  The numbers, for Allentown resident’s, are staggering. This bill is 1/19th the cost of doing nothing!  

LVEDC: What are the specific transportation projects that will occur in your district and spur economic development? 

Rep. Schlossberg: The Secretary of Transportation has told me that Allentown will benefit in multiple ways. First, thanks to our vote, the widening of Route 22 will happen and will be accelerated, generating more jobs and enhancing business activity. We’ll be conducting a traffic study in downtown Allentown to determine possible methods of enhancing traffic flow and alleviating congestion; with the thousands of new jobs heading downtown, this is absolutely necessary in order to avoid gridlock during rush hour and after Arena events. There will also be a new multi-modal fund that can be accessed for pedestrian safety, streetscape improvements, railway improvements and aviation. Valley residents can be assured that I, and my colleagues who voted yes, will spare no effort to bring home our fair share of funding.  

LVEDC: Is it true that the City of Allentown will see a 70 percent increase in liquid fuel proceeds and, if so, what does that mean for the city? 

Rep. Schlossberg: This is absolutely true and we are very excited.  Simply put, it’s $1.5 million less in property tax that Allentown needs.  Every Pennsylvania municipality receives liquid fuels money to care for their roads and bridges.  The funding has declined every year for the past few years as cars have become more energy efficient (and thus used less gasoline, resulting in less gas tax revenue).  As a result, liquid fuels funding as been supplemented by property tax revenue.  This extra money means Allentown will have more money for road maintenance and will have to rely less on property taxes.

Transportation Legislation Will Drive Lehigh Valley Economy

Governor Tom Corbett signed into law major legislation that will provide about $2.3 billion in new transportation funding. Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation appla[...]

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