City transportation head slams Corbett funding panel

The city’s top transportation official took a shot at Gov. Corbett’s transportation funding commission on Thursday.

Speaking at the monthly board meeting of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation and utilities, expressed concern the regional planning group would unequivocally support “yet another goddamned study” of transportation funding options.

The commission was established by Corbett to come up with ways of closing a $3.5 billion transportation funding shortfall, sparked in part by the state’s failure to toll Interstate 80.

Cutler said that additional tolling was “predestined” and said that “I cannot even imagine that there will be any new recommendations” from the commission that haven’t already been brought up in the past.

“This ain’t brain surgery,” she said, adding that the DVRPC is now “in the same circular motion that they’re in” by continually rehashing the state funding problem without following through on a solution.

Her comments came during a presentation by Michael Boyer, the DVRPC’s head of long range planning and economic coordination, on transportation funding in the nine-county DVRPC region.

Cutler also reserved criticism for the federal government, which she said isn’t stepping up to the plate to help fund the reconstruction of Interstate 95, a massive multi-billion dollar project.

“I think it’s shameful,” she said, adding that the DVRPC’s discussion of local funding solutions could let the federal government “off the hook.”

Joe Hoeffel, the Montgomery County commissioner who chairs the DVRPC, struck a more positive note, saying he was “optimistic” the governor’s commission would come up with revenue-raising measures including the tolling of roads and the granting of taxation power to local counties and municipalities to help fund their own projects.

“Everyone’s looking for cover” in a climate when tax and fee increases are greeted with suspicion, he said, adding that he thought the commission could provide that.

DVRPC executive director Barry Seymour said that it was important that the region focus on what it could control ― and given Republicans’ resistance to raising the gas tax in Congress, local funding was important to consider.

The governor, who campaigned on a platform of no tax increases, has ruled out a gas tax increase but is open to fee increases and increased tolling, according to Boyer.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Barry J. Schoch said the commission is looking to raise about $2.5 billion a year in additional revenue and aims to wrap up its work by August.

In other news, the DVRPC will be developing four residential and four commercial case studies for EnergyWorks, a regional program that connects home and business owners with resources to promote energy efficiency improvements.

The case studies, paid for by the city, are aimed at providing examples of the positive impact energy efficiency improvements and retrofits can have.

The DVRPC Board also approved a market assessment and fiscal impact study for municipalities surrounding Pottstown. The study will analyze land-use patterns and infrastructure needs as the area develops.

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