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Transportation Funding Plan on Backburner

A plan to address Pennsylvania's aging roads and bridges may not be decided until the lion's share of the state budget takes shape, according to the head of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Lawmakers are wondering if and when Governor Tom Corbett will follow up on the fact-finding report of his special transportation panel with a plan to put recommended funding measures into effect. The Transportation Funding Advisory Committee called for billions of dollars of reinvestment into PennDOT's deteriorating infrastructure last summer.

Plans for boosting the state's transportation spending include increased drivers' registration fees and the closure of drivers license centers to save costs.

Corbett has repeatedly promised to hold the line on taxes, but PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said decisions about the Commonwealth's infrastructure won't hinge on the governor's tax policy alone.

"You know the governor, certainly his campaign took its pledge, but he also took a pledge to do the right thing for Pennsylvania," said Schoch.

The PennDOT leader said Pennsylvania could raise funds by tying the state's gas tax level to wholesale gasoline prices.

"That idea is not dead," said Schoch. "It's one of many that we're still looking at, relative to how we do this in a way that doesn't hurt the economy, and yet provides the long-term growth we need."

Schoch is not only keeping an eye on the state funding situation, but on federal aid as well. Congress is soon due to extend a federal program that funds state transportation projects.

"I don't think there's any danger of a stop of the federal program," said Schoch. "It's just a question of, how long will it go? The reason we at the state level like to see a six-year bill is it gives us certainty and reliability in funding for multiple years."