Pa. plan for public-private transportation venture set for a vote

    Study after study shows Pennsylvania’s roads are deteriorating.

    One state lawmaker is proposing a way to bankroll transportation projects with private dollars. They’re called public-private partnerships, and they could help expand highways and build road connectors, ports and railways.

    Tolls would pay for the projects.

    House sponsor Rep. Rick Geist, a Republican of Blair County, said he’s introduced a bill to allow the partnerships several times before. He remains undaunted.

    “It’s a different concept, and this kind of law takes time to mature and get passed. Usually it doesn’t happen at the first whack,” he said.

    A state Senate version of public-private partnerships has been floated as well. But any move to increase fees is a tough sell in a Republican-controlled Capitol during a down economy.

    Republican state Sen. Jake Corman of Centre County said public-private partnerships get spotty support because they don’t go far enough to fix all the state’s infrastructure problems–such as road and bridge capacity in rural areas.

    “It would only be able to help in high-traffic areas, so you’re talking more urban areas. Where, cause you know, to recover your costs, you would need a traffic count going through, paying a toll,” he said.

    A governor-appointed panel tasked with finding ways to fund transportation projects suggested public-private partnerships could be a useful tool.

    Geist’s bill is scheduled for a vote in the full House Monday.

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