transportation forum

Speakers at the Lancaster County transportation forum July 25. 

A landmark 2013 law that is enabling widespread road and bridge repairs across Pennsylvania is great, but the need is greater, panelists at a transportation forum said Monday.

“Every place there’s 10 trucks today, there’s going to be 17 in 2040,” said Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Jim Ritzman.

That speaks to the need to upgrade infrastructure, he said during a forum with county and business leaders at Lancaster Airport, particularly as congestion, closures and restrictions have long been frustrating companies and safety officials.

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While Act 89 has been helping address the transportation repair backlog by bumping up project funding about 30 percent, Ritzman said, there are still safety projects waiting for dollars.

And, he said, long-term there is concern about federal-funding levels, and about the state relying on gas taxes as fuel efficiency climbs.

“We really need to stay focused on this, because it’s not going away,” he said, calling for a collective effort “to figure out what works best.”

Danny Good, president and owner of Good Transport Services in Columbia, said the business community is willing to open its wallets for the efficiency better roads and bridges will bring. However, he said, he thinks the public could bear a larger share of the financial burden for roads.

For instance, he said, passenger vehicle registration costs $36 — “a ridiculously low number when you look at what some other states pay.”

“Since Act 89 was established, our truck registration has increased every year,” he said. “They’re now close to $2,000 per truck.”

Christine Sable, president of Sable Commercial Realty in Lancaster, said her clients ask a lot of questions about traffic, commute times, and the proximity of highways, railroads and airports.

In one case, she said, a client who was about to buy an office building for about 100 employees on a busy corridor changed his mind after realizing that at certain times of day it was nearly impossible to pull out of the parking lot.

“Transportation is a key issue,” she said.

Other business leaders agreed, citing examples of how transportation problems affect them and, in some cases, how Act 89 is helping.

Jason Wagner, managing director of the Pennsylvania Highway Information Association, said it will be holding similar forums across the state.

The organization chose to start in Lancaster, he said, because the community here — led by The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry — was so key to the passage of Act 89.

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