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Rep. Geist urges public-private effort on transportation

By , - Last modified: June 16, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Pennsylvania badly needs to shore up its roads and bridges, and legislation authorizing public-private partnerships for transportation infrastructure projects is vital to making that happen, state Rep. Rick Geist told attendees this morning at a Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry “Wake Up to the Issues” breakfast.

Rehabilitating the Schuylkill Expressway and Pennsylvania’s portion of Interstate 95 — two chronically congested Philadelphia-area roadways — would create a wealth of jobs for engineers and skilled laborers throughout Central and Eastern Pennsylvania, as well as contracts for firms such as Lancaster County’s The High Cos., Geist said.

Geist, an Altoona Republican and chairman of the Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee, is a former road engineer. He has developed an 11-point package of legislative proposals to address what he calls Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure crisis.

Central to his vision are public-private partnerships, or “P3s,” under which private companies would fund infrastructure projects in exchange for toll revenue. Geist has twice introduced P3 bills, and hopes to pass such legislation this fall.

Asked if P3 tolls might fall afoul of Gov. Tom Corbett’s “no new taxes” pledge, Geist called them “user fees” and said the governor can’t duck responsibility for fixing the state’s plight.

Pennsylvania has about 8,000 miles of roads that need to be rebuilt, and thousands of potentially unsafe bridges, Geist said. Existing transportation revenue streams fall billions of dollars short of what is needed, he said.

“I do not want blood on my hands from a bridge that fails in Pennsylvania,” he said.


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