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Time to Invest in Our Future

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Posted by: Bernie Dagenais on Monday, April 1, 2013 at 3:45:00 pm

 

Time to invest in our future

 

Bernard Dagenais, Guest Columnist

Like a home, a car or an office building, Pennsylvania’s roads, bridges and public transit systems require regular maintenance. Pushing off the investment will only create safety issues and cost more.

Yet, there’s a staggering $3.5 billion annual gap between what the state spends and what is needed. With his budget address on Feb. 5, Gov. Tom Corbett outlined a plan to boost funding by lifting a cap on the oil franchise tax, among other measures. It’s impossible to know how much of the additional tax oil companies would pass on to consumers at the pump, since market factors will come into play, but the proposal does rely on a revenue source that is linked to utilization. In other words, those who use roads heavily consume more fuel and would likely pay more than those who don’t.

The Main Line Chamber of Commerce, along with a diverse group of statewide advocates, believes that a comprehensive transportation funding as essential. It’s a factor in our competitiveness as a state and region, and it’s a safety issue for anyone who travels.

In addition to having traffic congestion adversely affect our communities and businesses, the region is delaying economic development opportunities. The Ardmore train station’s reconstruction, which was broadly seen as part of a plan to spur redevelopment that has since been scaled back considerably, is on hold. A Paoli Transportation Center plan is expected to create construction opportunities nearby, once it wins funding. Both projects could include additional parking for those taking SEPTA trains. And while public transit can help reduce road congestion, SEPTA needs consistent funding to invest in the train cars it needs. Comprehensive funding also invests in ports and airports that are essential in our global economy.

To businesses, traffic congestion and detours are more than an inconvenience; they are an added expense often handed off to the customer.

Funding transportation is a basic government responsibility, but it’s not an issue that inspires much passion – until or unless a disaster strikes like a fatal bridge failure.

It’s an issue worth caring about.

In the short term, transportation funding will boost our economy by creating tens of thousands of jobs. In the long term, it will create an environment in which we can better achieve our economic potential and improve the quality of life in our communities.

Comprehensive transportation funding will make our area and the rest of the state more competitive in attracting business. That’s why it’s important to see this as more of an investment that will pay off than an expense.

Gov. Corbett had it right when he said in his budget address: “Transportation is the bloodstream of our economy. If it fails, our economy fails.”

While the governor’s plan is a step in the right direction, additional funding sources will be required to make up the gap and legislators are considering options such as higher vehicle registration fees, for example. While no one wants to pay more, the work just doesn’t get done without dedicating additional dollars. It is past time for lawmakers to exhibit leadership on this issue.

Bernard Dagenais, president and CEO of The Main Line Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at bdagenais@mlcc.org.

To read the article on the Philadelphia Business Journal website, click here.

 

 

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