Transportation funding is a complicated topic, but we're striving to be transparent and help Pennsylvanians understand this complex issue.
Sometimes this means celebrating important milestones, such as the recent passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. However, it also means calling attention to problems where they exist. An example of this is Pennsylvania's gas tax, which isn't a reliable funding source in today's world.
We recommend visiting the Funding page of our website to see a comprehensive overview of transportation funding in PA, but here are some of the most common questions we're asked.
"Pennsylvania will be getting money from the new federal infrastructure bill. Why are you still talking about funding?"
The passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is the largest federal infrastructure investment in decades, and PennDOT is grateful for this meaningful, historical action. It will allow Pennsylvania to invest $4 billion in additional dollars over five years to modernize our infrastructure like roads, bridges, ports, and rail, while creating sustainable, good-paying jobs that will be transformative of our transportation system and our local economy.
There's no doubt that these critical investments will have a major impact across the state. However, a one-time investment doesn't eliminate the need for reliable, sustainable funding at the state level.
You can try your hand at budgeting for PA's transportation system with our interactive Closing the Gap tool.
"So that means bridge tolling is still on the table?"
Yes. The recent federal action will not impact the need for state-level solutions like the Major Bridge P3 Initiative, which was approved by the Pennsylvania P3 Board in November 2020. The board includes representatives from all four legislative caucuses.
Federally funded projects usually require a 20-percent state match. With that in mind, we expect we would need approximately $930 million in additional state funds just to be able to fully leverage the new federal funds. If federal funds were committed to the nine candidate bridge projects in the Major Bridge P3, those projects would take up over half of the new federal funding. This means that these much-needed funds will only benefit a handful of projects, minimizing the overall impact.
The federal investment is a huge step in the right direction, but it does not address all our financial challenges. We need to modernize our approach to transportation funding in Pennsylvania and leverage state-level solutions like the Major Bridge P3 initiative so that we can maximize what we have and build for the future.
"Where are you spending our tax dollars?! It must be lining someone's pockets..."
Each year, we publish a detailed breakdown of PennDOT's financial information in our annual report. The same information is also available on our PennDOT Results page. Additionally, the PA Auditor General conducted an independent audit on our agency in 2019 to make sure all funds were being used appropriately.
"You're giving money to the State Police. That's your only funding problem, right?"
Close, but not exactly.
According to Pennsylvania law, the Pennsylvania State Police receives funds from the Motor License Fund (MLF) to support their highway safety activities.
Steps have been taken in recent years to decrease the amount of funding they receive. In 2016, legislative action capped expenditures from the MLF going to the PA State Police beginning with the 2017-18 budget and concluding with the 2027-28 budget.
At PennDOT, we understand that police presence is important to maintaining safe highways and adequate funding is needed to support this. However, we want to see a more sustainable solution to the State Police funding challenge that allows more funds from the MLF to fund infrastructure improvements – like fixing bridges and repairing potholes.
In fact, the Transportation Revenue Options Commission (TROC) recommended that solutions for funding PSP be explored outside of the Motor License Fund. Those recommendations can be found in the TROC report, which was submitted to the governor on July 30, 2021.
"Why do you spend money on public transit instead of roads and bridges?"
In Pennsylvania, we don't take money away from roads and bridges to fund public transit. Gas tax revenues do not fund public transit, and Act 89 of 2013 established the Multimodal Transportation Fund. This stabilizes funding for ports and rail freight, increases aviation investments, establishes dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and allows targeted funding for priority investments in any mode.
While roads and bridges are an extremely important part of Pennsylvania's transportation infrastructure, all transportation-related infrastructure falls under the umbrella of PennDOT's responsibilities. PA's vast transportation network includes roads, bridges, aviation, rail freight, public transit, etc. It's all part of helping Pennsylvanians get where they need to go safely, while also making sure companies can transport goods across the state efficiently to serve our population.
Please not that PennDOT's multimodal program is separate from the Multimodal Transportation Fund administered by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.
"Where can I learn more about all this?"
Great question! Please visit penndot.pa.gov/funding for more information about transportation funding in Pennsylvania.
Our funding challenges are complex and there is no simple, one-size fits all solution. If you'd like to receive updates about transportation funding in PA, sign up for our PennDOT Pathways newsletter.