The following information was released Thursday by State Rep. Steve Santarsiero's office:
Newtown State Rep. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks, will serve on the state’s newly created Public-Private Transportation Partnership Board, to oversee specific transportation projects jointly managed by private industry and PennDOT.
The board, which was created with the passage of House Bill 3 in July, will consider proposals from private entities to operate, maintain, build and collect tolls on highways, bridges, tunnels, overpasses and other transportation facilities in the state. During legislative debate, Santarsiero voiced concerns that the proposal would fast track the leasing of highways and bridges without valuable public input and disclosure.
Additionally, he offered several amendments to strengthen the board’s accountability to taxpayers, to require U.S. financing, to restrict industry participation to American firms, and to give priority in the selection process to businesses that commit to using U.S. or Pennsylvania-made construction materials and those that commit to using Pennsylvania workers.
“I see my appointment to this board as an opportunity to be the voice for communities where the projects will take place and to safeguard taxpayers’ and motorists’ interests as well,” Santarsiero said. “While this board may address a small percentage of our state’s transportation funding needs, more needs to be done to fix our crumbling roads, bridges and public transportation systems and I will continue to press for that investment statewide.”
House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody, Allegheny County, appointed Santarsiero to serve with Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch (ex officio, chair), a designee appointed by the budget secretary (ex officio), a gubernatorial appointee and three other members of the General Assembly.
Pennsylvania’s failing transportation infrastructure consistently ranks as the highest concern among residents. While the Governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Committee in 2011 estimated Pennsylvania’s transportation fund at a $3.5 million deficit, the Governor has yet to support the committee’s recommendation or offer his own proposal to fix the critical funding problem in order to address the more than 5,000 structurally deficient bridges and 8,000 miles of highway rated poor in Pennsylvania.
In July, Santarsiero hosted a Democratic Policy Committee hearing in Yardley Borough where transportation experts and local officials discussed the challenges to maintaining safety and economic vitality without a sound transportation infrastructure investment plan for funding transportation needs statewide.