Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 10, 2016

Lag Time? A Significant Spending Boost, but Still a C-Minus Grade for Pa.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett Speaks On The Penn State Football Scandal

Corbett. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Even after enactment of big infrastructure spending packages signed into law by the state’s current and previous governor, Pennsylvania still gets an overall grade of C-minus from the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Central Pennsylvania Section in its 2014 report card.

The report, released Wednesday, gives a D-minus to the state’s roads and wastewater systems, a D-plus to its bridges, and a D to its mass transit systems. Pennsylvania gets a better grade for its freight rail, a B.

The report did praise the state’s leaders for boosting funding for transportation with a bill signed last November by Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican who faces a difficult re-election battle this year.

The legislation will result in the state spending an additional $2.3 billion to $2.4 billion on roads and bridges and up to $495 million on transit systems by 2019.

Corbett said in April that the plan would create 50,000 new jobs over the next five years, with 18,000 of them this year.

Commenting on the report Thursday, Corbett’s predecessor, former Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat who is co-chair of Building America’s Future Educational Fund, a bipartisan coalition which urges more infrastructure investment, said, “As low as those marks are, we have made progress. And the best example you can give is freight rail.”

He said in 2007 he signed into law a $500 million bridge repair bill and in 2008 he OK’d $1.2 billion in bond issues for water and wastewater. He also noted that President Obama’s 2009 stimulus law spent $1 billion in on the state’s roads and bridges from 2009 to 2011.

Rendell said the stimulus also included TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants which helped pay for Norfolk Southern and CSX freight rail improvements.

“Those are perfect examples of how spending makes a difference — and the report card reflects it. The combination of TIGER grants, railroad industry money, and state funds “dramatically improved the state of freight rail in the whole eastern half of the country and in Pennsylvania significantly.”

As for Pennsylvania’s bridges, Rendell said, “our money and the stimulus money allowed us to go from 6,600 structurally deficient bridges down to 4,500 when I left as governor.”

The ASCE report, he said, “shows that we’re not spending enough federal, state, local and private dollars on our infrastructure. And something had to be done — which is why I joined with Gov. Corbett to try to persuade the legislature to pass the transportation bill.”

He recalled that “I had press conferences with him and I stood side by side with him urging Democrats to vote for it as well as Republicans.”

Rendell said the bill “will remedy the defects in our infrastructure. Over the next four or five years. I think you will see significant improvement in Pennsylvania’s infrastructure in most of those categories because of the transportation bill.”

But there’s a lag time between the transportation bill being signed and the concrete and asphalt work being done.

Even though Corbett put his signature on the bill last November, “You won’t start seeing work really being completed on that — the first phase of work — until maybe this November, but probably as late as March of next year,” Rendell said.

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