Last updated: April 24. 2013 7:02PM - 862 Views

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A recent traffic jam in Harrisburg was created by the type of pileup Pennsylvania motorists don’t mind a bit.

State lawmakers, other public officials, and business, labor, transit, and recreation-trails advocates collided in their support of a long-awaited state transportation funding plan.

The blueprint, which is generating bipartisan support, includes $2.5 billion a year to fix highways, bridges, and mass transit systems around the state.

It appears that Pennsylvania is finally ready to address its long-deferred transportation needs.

The aggressive plan presented by House Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty (R., Montgomery) would deliver precisely what Gov. Corbett’s own advisory panel recommended two years ago. Beyond repairing roads and bridges, it would provide critical funding for SEPTA and other transit agencies to improve safety and meet ridership demands.

Rafferty’s plan smartly builds on the more modest transportation proposal the governor included in his budget proposal in February. He ratchets up Corbett’s plan for higher licensing and registration fees by increasing surcharges on speeding tickets and for other driving violations without making the payments too painful for the average motorist.

At a time when gasoline routinely costs more than three dollars a gallon, the proposed increase in wholesale fuel charges would add only about 26 cents a gallon to pump prices over five years. That may seem steep compared with the current 32 cents per gallon in gasoline surcharges, but weekly it amounts to what many drivers spend for a large coffee.

Moreover, by turning to fuel taxes, the state would spread the burden more fairly to long-haul truckers who ply the state’s roads — particularly, I-80 — but have avoided shouldering transportation costs built into higher tolls along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

In another savvy move, Rafferty’s proposal also provides funding for bicycling and pedestrian initiatives, meaning Pennsylvanians who get around under their own power would see gains.

Corbett’s transportation chief, Barry Schoch, attended the funding bill announcement last week, but didn’t fully endorse the more costly Rafferty plan.

But it’s clear that between the governor’s plan and the legislator’s initiative, a solution to funding the state’s critical transportation needs should not be too far down the road.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

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