Money there never seems to
- The total cost of our transportation needs always greatly exceeds the funds we expect to
- The region has to set priorities, making tough choices and compromises.
Pennsylvania has special problems.
- Pennsylvania has more miles of state highways to maintain than New York, New Jersey and all
of New England combined.
- Because of our hills and valleys, we have an unusually high number of bridges to maintain.
More than half of them are over 45 years old.
- On the interstate highways in Pennsylvania, 16% of the traffic is trucks.
Money where does it come from?
- Federal and state taxes on the sale of fuels provide most of the transportation money for
- State fees on vehicle licenses also provide revenue.
- The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission operates on a separate budget. Its revenues include
tolls, used to maintain the turnpike system.
Money - it comes in specific categories,
each with its own rules for qualifying.
- Public transportation (buses, light rail, paratransit van services, etc.) receives “Title III” funding,
broken into separate programs to support maintenance, operations, and capital improvements.
- Highways, bridges, and other surface transportation projects receive “Title I” funding, in specific
programs for highways, bridges, intermodal facilities, and Congestion Management and Air
Quality (CMAQ) projects.
- Transportation Enhancements — such as bicycle and pedestrian paths, restoration of rail
depots, or other projects that enhance transportation facilities — are funded by 10% of the
Surface Transportation Program monies.
Phases of project development
- On the TIP, funding is programmed year-by-year.
- The earliest phases may be study, rail crossing upgrades, and preliminary engineering including
- Next comes final design followed by purchase of right-of-way and moving utility lines, if
- The last phase is usually construction (including implementation of programs).
Carry-over from one program to the
- Many projects appear on the TIP only for their
- A large part of the next TIP can be consumed
just to finish incomplete projects started earlier.
Flexibility within the program
- As a project progresses, cost increases may occur or sometimes the project isn’t ready for
construction as soon as expected.
- Therefore, as necessary, the TIP or Long-Range Plan can be amended between regular
updates. The project sponsor (usually PennDOT or the County) proposes to move funding from
one qualifying project to another. It is important not to tie up funds if a project is not ready when
it was initially programmed.
Basic funding priorities
- Responding to federal and state guidance, SPC attempts to follow the 80/20 rule – programming
80% to maintain and upgrade the existing transportation system and 20% to construct facilities
that add capacity (new highways, new interchanges, or new travel lanes on existing highways).
- SPC also tries to follow the principle of “finish what we started,” carrying projects to completion
after initial stages have been funded.
Competition for funding
- Many high-visibility projects are quite costly. Complete funding of any one could consume all the
funds available to that county.
- Many needs cannot be met. Do we postpone an expensive maintenance project by doing a
quick, temporary repair? Do we delay one project in order to be able to do another?
- Priorities may be based on safety considerations, urgency of maintenance needs, or whether
the transportation facility supports economic development.
- Although there’s little room for new projects, we must keep our ears open for critical needs.
- Innovative funding, which finds new sources of revenue, will become increasingly important.
This could help advance big projects – either upgrades or new capacity – and could free up
money from our regular sources for other projects.
- Priority project needs in each county will receive a fair share of the money that’s available to the
region, but negotiation and compromise must take place. Many projects benefit the whole
region, beyond a single county’s boundaries, and sometimes counties decide to take turns
funding major regional projects over the years.
Who is responsible for making these tough decisions
on the Long-Range Plan and TIP?
- These programs are adopted by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, whose members
are the City of Pittsburgh and ten Counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, each with five voting
representatives on SPC. In addition, PennDOT has two votes. The Governor’s Office,
Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Port Authority of
Allegheny County, and another transit operator each has a vote.
- Details of these programs are developed, monitored, and maintained by SPC, working closely
in conjunction with the Counties, City of Pittsburgh, PennDOT, and the transit agencies in our
region, by way of the Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) and Transit Operators
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What roles do the Congress and state legislature
- Federal legislation establishes basic requirements for transportation planning. The current legislature is called SAFETEA-LU..
- Federal legislation may include earmark funding for specific projects. SPC works closely with
the Congressional delegation from Southwestern Pennsylvania, encouraging them to earmark
projects that are already partially funded in our TIP and to avoid partial funding for projects we
cannot afford to complete.
- Legislators can help us maintain existing programs and develop new sources of funding.
- The State Transportation Commission sets policy direction regarding the state’s Twelve-Year
Program, and the Pennsylvania state legislature approves it. Our TIP becomes Stage I of the
- The Congress provides the appropriations to fund transportation. The House and Senate
Appropriations and Transportation Committees are critical in advancing this legislation.
- Likewise, the state legislature provides the appropriations to actually commit state funds.
Appropriations and Transportation Committees in the state House and Senate advance this