Gov. Wolf seeks overhaul of Pennsylvania’s highway funding

A person walks past the Interstate-95′s mile-long double-decked Girard Point Bridge in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. PennDOT named several bridges including the Girard Point Bridge that it said it is considering tolling to pay for the reconstruction. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A person walks past the Interstate-95′s mile-long double-decked Girard Point Bridge in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. PennDOT named several bridges including the Girard Point Bridge that it said it is considering tolling to pay for the reconstruction. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Amid a deepening stalemate over financing highways and public transit, Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday proposed phasing out Pennsylvania’s gasoline tax and appointed a commission to recommend alternative ways to pay for the state’s needs.

Wolf ordered a commission of lawmakers, transportation industry representatives, transportation planners, government officials and others to deliver recommendations by Aug. 1 of funding alternatives to foot the extra billions of dollars deemed to be necessary.

The gas tax that Wolf calls “burdensome” isn’t keeping pace with transportation and safety needs as vehicles become more fuel-efficient and more motorists buy electric vehicles, state officials say.

PennDOT has said its current highway and bridge budget for construction and maintenance is about $6.9 billion per year, less than half of the $15 billion that is needed to keep Pennsylvania’s highways and bridges in good condition and ease major traffic bottlenecks.

PennDOT is seeking to add tolls to nine major bridge reconstruction projects, drawing objections from Republican lawmakers.

Meanwhile, the Legislature’s efforts to fund transportation over the last two decades have plunged the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission deep into debt, jacked up turnpike tolls and elevated the gas tax to No. 2 in the nation.

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