I’ve been reluctant to engage in the debate over how much to spend in total on the state transportation bill because I still don’t know what’s getting funded.
The worst thing about this plan is that Ed Rendell’s responsible “Fix It First” approach to transportation funding (which has since been embraced by President Obama) got thrown out the window by Tom Corbett’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission. This will apparently revive all kinds of undead 60’s and 70’s-era highway expansion boondoggles like the $320 million plan to widen Rt. 22 in the Lehigh Valley. Whatever the top-line number ends up being, I know that it ought to be $320 million less than that.
I don’t know how many more of these awful undead projects made it back on the list, but PennDOT does and they aren’t telling us:
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has built a website that compares competing plans to spend billions of dollars on highways and bridges in new transportation money under proposals being considered by the Legislature, but agency officials have refused to release similar information to the public, which will pay for the chosen projects.
The department gave lawmakers access about two weeks ago to the password-protected website, and The Associated Press learned about the site from lawmakers and legislative staff aides. But department officials refused repeated requests by the AP to detail which highway and bridge projects the agency expects to be funded. Several senators asked about it were surprised to hear that the website had not been made public.
“This is the first that I’ve head of it,” said state Rep. Bob Freeman. Freeman said he didn’t recall being contacted by the administration about the website. “It’s news to me.”
“I don’t see any good reason why they can’t go public with it,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman, R-Centre, said today. “It’s not earth-shattering stuff. It’s highways and bridges.”
PennDOT officials have maintained that the plan remains a draft, not final, and cite that as the reason not to make public their plans on how to spend billions of dollars in tax, fee and fine increases that are under consideration by lawmakers.
The fact that it’s still a draft is exactly why we need to see this now, before the funding bill gets voted on. People who are familiar with these projects need to be able to advocate for or against them publicly, before the vote, before we agree on a top-line number. The current process is doing it backwards.