Photo copyright Blair Seitz
A nonpartisan grassroots civics organization
 

President's Message
August, 2008
by Kay McKenna

This is my last President’s report for LWV-SEPR.  I extend a warm welcome and best wishes to our new President, Sara Caspar.

This program year was almost completely devoted to learning more about how the state of Pennsylvania can best address its deteriorating infrastructure.   Governor Rendell’s plan for leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike for 50, 75, or greater number of years received lots of press coverage and is now a bill before the General Assembly, the successful bidder having been recently been chosen.  While Pennsylvania would not be the very first state to adopt this kind of plan to generate income for maintaining infrastructure, the few other states that have chosen to lease roads  to a private company are still in the early stages of their lease agreements.  Therefore we elected to learn more about the only other prominent proposal, that of having the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission lease agreement between the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and PennDot for tolling Interstate 80, as stipulated in Act 44.

Under that plan the Turnpike commission would supply $116 billion to PenDOT for transportation  system upgrades across the state during the next 50 years.  I 80 tolling, which must gain final approval from the
federal department of transportation, would start in 2011and pay for the reconstruction and maintenance of that road and other roads and bridges throughout the Commonwealth.  The Act provides for the funding of the of the state’s 73 mass-transit agencies by Turnpike revenue bonds.  To date, the federal government has not yet given final approval to the state for tolling Interstate 80.  Final approval, if given, will be granted in 2009.

We held two programs on this issue.  On November 28, 2007 we shared a program with the Regional Citizens Committee of DVRPC at DVRPC offices with  David seltzer from  Mercator Advisors LLC  who talked about why he thinks the Act 44 plan is a better financial arrangement for the state than a long term lease of  the turnpike to a private company.  On April 15th Tom Caramanico, President of McCormick Taylor, project managers for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, talked to us at a luncheon at the Restaurant School.  He gave us a detailed explanation of  how funding to PenDOT for infrastructure will work out with and without the tolling of I80.

We also continued to follow the issue of the Delaware Valley Basin Commission’s lacking of 20 percent of its funding from the federal government, which contributed to its operations from the early 1960s,
when the basin commission was formed to 1997, when the federal funding ceased.  Governor Rendell, Senator Specter and Senator Casey as well as several U.S. Representatives from Pennsylvania have all written to the Army Core of Engineers in support of allocating the restoration of federal funding for the Delaware River Basin Commission, as well as the Susquehanna and Potomac River Basin Commissions, which received authorization under the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. DRBC is now working on obtaining the 10th signature of all Senators in the five states that are party to the Basin compact to a similar letter.

We continue to represent LWV-SEPR at the monthly Regional Citizens Committee of the Delaware Regional Planning Commission where we are given briefings on DVRPC work projects and are asked for our approval, disapproval and comments on the yearly Transportation Improvement Plan as well as long range plans for roads and bridges in the five county region.  The Committee is increasingly vocal about
its members’ interest in minimizing sprawl, adopting and carrying out projects in the most environmentally sustainable way possible, and asking for the provision of bicycle and pedestrian access in all new road
and improvement projects.

After each election we are also monitoring the number of citizens registered and the number of those people who do vote for each of the five counties. The results may be seen on our website.

To learn about the voter registration and other program activities of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Leagues,we encourage you to go to their websites (below.)

 

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Membership is open to men and women of 18 years of age or older.