Year-end report: PennDOT says it’s delivering transportation value

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected] | December 30th, 2017 10:25 pm

WILKES-BARRE — PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards this week issued a year-end report on the department’s performance in 2017.

Richards said the Wolf Administration is taking seriously its responsibility to care for the transportation assets used by Pennsylvanians every day.

“Whether it’s improving pedestrian safety on a major corridor, resurfacing a rural roadway or replacing an old bridge, we’re aiming to improve safety and mobility for all users,” Richards said in a news release.

This year, through the end of October, Richards said roughly 2,100 urban and rural roadway miles were paved — nearly 1,500 of these paved miles are on roads seeing an average of fewer than 5,000 vehicles daily. Richards said PennDOT also put out contracts to preserve, repair, and replace more than 450 state-owned bridges and 18 locally owned bridges, and completed 20 bridge projects with department forces.

In the PennDOT region including Lackawanna, Luzerne, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties, 420 miles of state roadway miles were paved and 23 bridges were repaired or replaced, Richards said.

“Communities across the state can expect even more progress, especially on lower-volume roadways and interstates, due to a program that Gov. Tom Wolf and I announced earlier this year,” Richards said. “The Road Maintenance and Preservation, or Road MaP program, dedicates sorely needed investments in roadway maintenance and our interstates.”

Richards said the total Road MaP program — $2.1 billion through the 2027-28 fiscal year — will go toward critical highway and bridge projects completed by PennDOT staff and private sector partners. She said the program will benefit roads and bridges across the state, and she offered examples of what $2.1 billion would translate into if it were fully allocated to one of three categories: paving nearly 21,000 miles of low-volume roadway; paving 2,100 miles of two-lane interstate; or 1,050 bridge projects worth $2 million.

“These are just one year’s examples of how we’re putting Act 89 — the state’s landmark, bi-partisan transportation funding plan — to work,” Richards said. “As of mid-November, nearly 3,000 projects have been completed or are underway that were accelerated or made possible by Act 89. More than 4,200 projects are on our Four Year and Twelve Year plans.”

Richards said at a time when many areas of the nation are struggling with how to make much needed investments in transportation, Wolf has reinforced the state’s commitment to improving pavement smoothness and tackling the long-standing challenge of many bridges in desperate need of repair.

“We have cut the number of these so-called structurally deficient bridges from a high of 6,034 in 2008 to 3,280 as of October,” Richards said. “I’m very proud of what PennDOT is accomplishing, and I reinforce our commitment to improving the public’s mobility and quality of life as we enhance our large and critical transportation system.”

Officials: Consult tax pros

before prepaying 2018 taxes

The recent passage of a federal tax plan has led some Pennsylvanians to attempt to pay 2018 real estate taxes early, before the new tax plan takes effect Monday.

The new federal tax plan places a cap on the allowable deduction for state and local income, sales, and property taxes at $10,000, meaning certain taxpayers who pay their 2018 real estate taxes now could save substantially by utilizing the current unlimited deduction on their 2017 federal income tax returns.

A deduction for any prepayment of 2018 state and local income taxes is not permitted in the new federal tax plan. However, the new federal law does not appear to prohibit a deduction for prepaid 2018 real estate taxes.

While the commonwealth cannot compel county and local governments to accept prepayments of 2018 real estate taxes, local taxing authorities should take all appropriate action to assist taxpayers adversely impacted by the changes in federal tax law.

On Dec. 27, the Internal Revenue Service issued an advisory on the pre-payment of property taxes that said in part:

“In general, whether a taxpayer is allowed a deduction for the prepayment of state or local real property taxes in 2017 depends on whether the taxpayer makes the payment in 2017 and the real property taxes are assessed prior to 2018. A prepayment of anticipated real property taxes that have not been assessed prior to 2018 are not deductible in 2017. State or local law determines whether and when a property tax is assessed, which is generally when the taxpayer becomes liable for the property tax imposed.”

The IRS website provides more information and examples.

Taxpayers attempting to prepay taxes due in 2018 should consult with an accountant or tax professional, Department of Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell and Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin said.

“We encourage every taxpayer to make the best financial decision for their individual situation,” Hassell said. “Having a conversation with the person who prepares your tax return is an important step that can help taxpayers before they make a final determination.”

“Changes in federal tax law that take effect January 1, 2018, have caused great concern across Pennsylvania, and rightly so,” added Davin. “It is important that taxpayers do what they can to financially prepare themselves for changes they will see when it comes time to file their federal return in April 2019.”

Fireworks distributor urges

safety in celebrating new year

With the passage of recent legislation on fireworks in Pennsylvania, residents can now legally purchase and use consumer fireworks, such as Roman candles and sky rockets, to herald the New Year.

But TNT Fireworks — the nation’s largest distributor of consumer fireworks and sparklers — urges families and individuals to play it safe when celebrating.

“Fireworks are an exciting option for ringing in the New Year,” says Tommy Glasgow, president of TNT. “When celebrating with fireworks, it is important to protect your family, friends, neighbors and pets by making safety a priority.”

Consumer fireworks now legal in Pennsylvania include: Sky rockets and bottle rockets; missile-type rockets; helicopter and aerial spinners; Roman candles; multi-aerial mine and shell devices; aerial shell kits; reloadables; and firecrackers.

Pennsylvanians can also continue to use hand-held sparklers and ground-based sparkling devices.


By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.