Transportation funding panel advancing a $15.6B package

A transportation funding commission set up by Gov. Tom Wolf to find ways to end Pennsylvania’s reliance on its gas tax will issue a $15.6 billion package of recommendations, which lean heavily on shifting to a vehicle-miles-traveled fee that numerous states are exploring.

The Transportation Revenue Options Commission reviewed its final recommendations at a Wednesday meeting, with the final report to be handed over Friday.

It faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled Legislature, and is expected to kick off a debate that could last years.

It comes as Pennsylvania and other states increasingly complain about stagnant gas tax collections that aren’t keeping pace with the rising cost of construction while motorists are driving more fuel-efficient or electric cars.

Wolf’s Department of Transportation, meanwhile, said the state’s current-year highway and bridge budget for construction and maintenance is $8.8 billion, less than half of the $18.1 billion that is needed to keep Pennsylvania’s highways and bridges in good condition and ease major traffic bottlenecks.

Pennsylvania’s gas tax is 58.7 cents per gallon, second-highest in the country behind California, according to the Tax Foundation.

The commission’s recommendations are projected to raise an additional $3.5 billion in each of the first two years, $6.6 billion in each of the third and fourth years and then $11.5 billion annually in the fifth year and beyond when an 8.1 cents-per-mile vehicle-miles-traveled fee is introduced.

It is designed to eliminate $4.1 billion in gas taxes.

Other significant revenue-raising elements are corridor tolling on interstates, a parcel-delivery surcharge and higher fees and taxes on vehicle purchases and registration.

The parcel-delivery surcharge — under consideration in Denver and New York City — reflects a shift to a delivery-based economy, powered by trucks that are putting more stress on highways and local roads.

States are up against a deadline of sorts, with Ford and General Motors making major investments in electric vehicles and planning to substantially shift their fleets to all-electric vehicles by 2030 or 2035.

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