Our opinion: Fixing roads and bridges

There is a reason major highways are referred to as “arterials.”

If a state – and let’s take Pennsylvania as an example – is thought of as a living being with the need for continuous nourishment throughout their cell structure, ground transportation is the vascular system that supplies that need.

Gov. Tom Corbett, a man with a negative Pavlovian response to the word “tax,” has nonetheless proposed a significant increase in gasoline taxes to pay for an extensive program aimed at improving Pennsylvania’s transportation system.

His plan calls for spending nearly $2 billion on transportation in Pennsylvania over five years.

While his proposal contains something of a gas tax shell game to pay for it, reducing one tax while opening the door to increase another, we believe that it is imperitive for the state General Assembly to approve a transportation bill that at least approaches the governor’s proposal.

The deteriorated condition of thousands of bridges in the state is just the tip of the iceberg threatening a transportation system that carries half a trillion dollars worth of goods and services throughout the Commonwealth each year, not to mention emergency vehicles and the 31,000 buses that carry 1.5 million children to school.

Make no mistake, there is a consumer cost to this plan.

When we talked about a shell game in the revenue stream, we were referring to an increase in the price of gasoline at the pump, while the tax paid by the motorist filling the tank would be 17 percent less than it is now. The reason is the cap on the tax which oil and gas companies pay on the wholesale price of gasoline would be removed. If you believe that an increase in the wholesale price won’t be carried through to the final pump price, you may still believe that an impish rabbit leaves colored eggs in your yard each spring.

Roads and bridges aren’t free, especially in a state with more than a quarter of a million miles of roads situated in a freeze-thaw zone that is murder on asphalt and concrete.

Prepare yourself for some uncomfortable news from the General Assembly. The final version of a transportation program that will – we hope – arrive on the Governor’s desk will likely be something less than what Corbett has proposed, but it will still cost more than it does now.

A reliable and safe transportation system cannot and should not be viewed as a government frill. What travels in that system is the life-blood of this state.