How Corbett’s Foot-Dragging on Transportation is Hurting the Economy

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Tom Corbett claims that he doesn’t want to raise gas taxes in a bad economy, but his foot-dragging on transportation funding is also hurting the economy. From the AP:

Driven by high gas prices and an uncertain economy, Americans are turning to trains and buses to get around in greater numbers than ever before. But the aging transit systems they’re riding face an $80 billion maintenance backlog that jeopardizes service just when it’s most in demand.

The boost in ridership comes as pain at the gas pump and the sluggish economic recovery combine with a migration of young adults to cities and new technology that makes transit faster and friendlier than in the past. The number of transit trips over a 12-month period will likely set a new record later this month or next, say Federal Transit Administration officials. The current peak is 10.3 billion trips over a year, set in December 2008.

But decades of deferred repairs and modernization projects also have many transit agencies scrambling to keep trains and buses in operation. The transit administration estimated in 2010 that it would take $78 billion to get transit systems into shape, and officials say the backlog has grown since then. In some places, workers search the Internet for spare parts that are no longer manufactured. In others, trains operate using equipment designed, literally, in the horse-and-buggy era.

In Philadelphia, for example, commuters ride trains over rusty steel bridges, some of them dating back to the 19th century. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority — which operates subway, trolley, bus and commuter rail systems — is responsible for 346 bridges that are on average 80 years old. Officials said they may be forced to slow trains or even stop them from crossing one bridge that’s 1,000 feet long and 90 feet above the ground if it deteriorates further, leaving stations on the other side without service.

Philadelphia is the economic powerhouse of Pennsylvania. That is where most of the state’s GDP comes from. Traffic congestion and transit delays hurt Philadelphia’s economic productivity. If the transit sucks, more people will opt to drive. This will increase congestion, and slow truck traffic as well. When truck traffic slows, business productivity falls. There is a ripple effect all through the supply chain.

Philadelphia is an important example, but this is a problem all over the state. The top 5 metro areas produce over 70% of the state’s GDP. Bad transportation infrastructure hurts their economic performance, and ultimately that hurts state revenue too. Nobody is saving any money delaying the hundreds of transportation repairs that need to be funded all across the state.

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