Transportation bill the topic at CBICC meeting

UNIVERSITY PARK – The need for a transportation bill in Pennsylvania was the focus of a Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County event at the Penn State Hotel and Conference Center on Tuesday.

Among those attending the event were Dan McNichol, who has partnered with Case Construction in an effort to draw attention to the country’s aging infrastructure.

“There are 4 million miles of roads in America … 50,000 of them are the interstate system,” McNichol Said.

McNichol, along with other speakers cited the need to finish the missing link between Seven Mountains and Boalsburg along U.S. 322, which for years has become increasingly dangerous as more and more traffic travels this stretch of road.

As the country has grown, there is more and more congestion on roads, because very little has been done to adjust to the economic growth over the past decades, McNichol said. As a result, business and industry has taken an economic hit after bridges and roads were posted for weight limits, or closed outright.

McNichol said the overall grade point average for America’s infrastructure, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, is a D+. Pennsylvania contributes to that rating, due in large part to the record number of structurally deficient bridges in the commonwealth.

In addition, McNichol said the rail system, dams, the electrical grid, schools and the park system, have all been neglected over a period of several decades.

“We love our parks to death, but don’t put enough money into them,” he added.

McNichol closed out his comments by stating that Pennsylvania was in a unique position and could very well lead the way in addressing much needed infrastructure work.

Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Transportation Barry Schoch said he expects to find out what will come of the transportation funding bill, Senate Bill 1, with in the next week or two. Senate Bill 1 passed with overwhelming support in the Senate with a 45-5 vote in favor, during a past legislative session.

Senate Bill 1 went to the state House of Representatives sometime ago, and Schoch said Gov. Tom Corbett has asked the representatives to hold off on an up or down vote, until there is a consensus and a bill can be passed and sent back to the Senate for approval.

Schoch said a vote now, would most likely lead to the bill’s defeat.

Schoch said the need for a comprehensive transportation bill has never been needed more, than right now.

There were recently 1,200 additional bridges posted in Pennsylvania, disrupting commerce and affecting the economy, Schoch said. Schoch has received some negative feedback from the business community because of this, to which he has repeatedly replied for concerned citizens to call their legislators and ask them to fund these needed infrastructure improvements state-wide.

Schoch said bridge and road postings will continue to go up with each passing year, until something is done to fund these projects.

Schoch said there is the very real threat that Pennsylvania will lose jobs to surrounding states who have already chosen to pass transportation bills and address infrastructure issues. This allows commerce to move more smoothly and thus keeps costs down, he said.

“Every year you don’t do it, it will get worse,” Schoch said.

In terms of job creation, Schoch said passing a transportation bill could potentially produce 50,000 new jobs, the vast majority of which would be for Pennsylvania. Doing nothing could cause the state to loose 12,000 construction related jobs, he said.