March 9, 2023

Infrastructure and Transportation: Paving the Way to Pennsylvania’s Future

On March 9, 2023, the PA House Republican Policy Committee held a public hearing on “Infrastructure and Transportation: Paving the Way to Pennsylvania’s Future,” hosted by Rep. Marla Brown (Lawrence County). The hearing aimed to address the obstacles faced by Pennsylvania's transportation system, specifically in terms of road and bridge maintenance, trucking regulations, trucker recruitment, and funding. To best understand the status of our roads and bridges, and the needs of all that utilize them, the Committee heard from PennDOT, the laborers that maintain our roads, and the trucking companies that traverse the state.

The testifiers that joined the Policy Committee were as follows:

Cheryl Moon-Sirianni - Executive Deputy Secretary, PennDOT
Scott Boyd - Board Member, Ellwood City Group
Vincent P. Tutino - President, The Lindy Group
Chad Marsilio - Chief Operating Officer, PGT Trucking

Agenda – Bios – Testimony
PennDOT Panel 

Cheryl Moon-Sirianni, Executive Deputy Secretary of PennDOT, joined the Committee to share her insight from decades of experience with PennDOT and Pennsylvania’s infrastructure. Compared to other similar states Pennsylvania is more reliant on state-supported infrastructure, and the Commonwealth has a significant amount of local and low-use roads that are under the purview of PennDOT. Cheryl Moon-Sirianni highlighted the importance of the Federal Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act (IIJA) for the state's transportation system, considering our multitude of needs. Without this federal funding, PennDOT would only be able to pave 1 mile of road per year in Lawrence County. However, though federal funding is desperately needed the IIJA money is only earmarked for highways and bridges, leaving local roads in need of funding for repaving and maintenance. The legislature and local officials must join together to request federal funding specific for local roads that fall outside of the scope of the initial IIJA allocations, as these specific allocations exist but are only accessible by request.

Moon-Sirianni noted that high-use roads need repaving every 10-15 years, while Pennsylvania is only capable of repaving every 18-20 years. She also shared that due to changes in PennDOT priorities the number of "poor" bridges has fallen from 30% to 9%, but "poor" roads are now increasing, and local (class 4) roads may need to wait 40 years before repaving unless further funding is provided by the state or requested from the federal government. Even with the status of Pennsylvania roads and infrastructure varying though the years and throughout the state, by and large, when our difficult climate and extensive utilization are considered, Pennsylvania roads are some of the best in the nation.

“There are all these grants that are a part of the Federal Infrastructure bill, but they are all discretionary and require letters of support and advocacy.”

Cheryl Moon-Sirianni,
Executive Deputy Secretary, PennDOT


Impacts of Infrastructure Panel 
Scott Boyd, a Board Member of the Ellwood City Group, began the “Impacts of Infrastructure” panel. The Ellwood City Group produces quality metal products forged in Western PA and then coordinates with their trucking teams to bring those products to other regions throughout the nation and world. The steel moved by the Ellwood City Group makes its way into aircraft carriers, submarines, and the infrastructure we rely on. Mr. Boyd shared his industry’s struggles with labor shortages, which began before the COVID-19 pandemic and are just as important as the status of our infrastructure. Boyd requested incentives and further training for prospective truckers to alleviate the labor shortage, similar to requests heard in the Committee’s workforce development hearing held earlier in the year.

Mr. Boyd noted that PA's truck permitting and regulations are stricter than neighboring states, particularly weight restrictions and limitations on combining vehicles to carry heavier loads. These onerous regulations impede the possibilities of our truckers, and are just as large an obstacle as sub-par infrastructure. Boyd emphasized that common-sense regulation along with well-maintained infrastructure is an incentive for large industries to operate and maintain a presence in PA.

“Anything the state can do to incentivize and promote training for the next generation of truckers could help to alleviate the constraint of doing business in PA.”

Scott Boyd,
Board Member, Ellwood City Group


Vincent P. Tutino, President of The Lindy Group, shed light on the funding challenges faced by Pennsylvania's transportation system. The Lindy Group is contracted to maintain our roads and bridges, and they have felt the financial pinch similarly to the rest of the country. Mr. Tutino stated that federally funded infrastructure projects require a 20% state match before allocations can be considered, and PA must raise current funding by 30% over 5 years to receive $13 billion from the IIJA. Inflation has increased material costs by 20% in a year, leading to an even more dire funding scenario. PennDOT, and their contractors, must balance their employee’s salaries, material costs, needs of our roads, and time when determining where work should be done.

Compounding on the State’s current lack of infrastructure funding is the realization that gas tax revenue is continuing to shrink due to more efficient vehicles and electric cars. Tutino suggested that Pennsylvania must pursue alternatives to the existing gas tax if we wish to cover the increasing loss in revenue and assure proper maintenance continues.

Gas sales over the last two decades have fallen precipitously:
  o   2003-2006 = 163 million gallons sold
  o   2010-2013 = 126 million gallons sold
  o   2017-2021 = 114 million gallons sold

Utilizing less resources for greater amounts of miles-traveled or work completed is not a negative in itself, but this phenomena has put a financial challenge on those that maintain our infrastructure. Electric vehicles do not need to utilize traditional gas pumps, and thus do not pay a gas tax, but their heavier weight still contributes to road wear-and-tear. The disparity in those who use our roads, and those who indirectly pay for them via taxation, is increasing.

“The construction industry is pleased with the passage of IIJA, and we will realize funding for 5 years. The scary part is what happens after 5 years.”

Vincent P. Tutino,
             President, The Lindy Group

Chad Marsilio, Chief Operating Officer of PGT Trucking, spoke on behalf of the truckers that utilize our infrastructure each and every day. Mr. Marsilio discussed the poor grade that Pennsylvania's infrastructure received from the American Society of Civil Engineers, with the state receiving a "C-" grade in 2018, and the same "C-" grade again in 2022. PA roads and infrastructure are not necessarily getting worse, but maintenance can only be completed in a manner that sustains the status-quo.

Marsilio noted that by 5:00 PM each day, most rest stops and parking lots are too full for truckers to utilize for mandated breaks. The lack of available parking, and the necessity of breaks throughout the workday, limits trucker’s abilities to get the most milage out of their available hours. He emphasized the need for more rest and truck parking locations, as 13% of truck fuel consumption is wasted waiting in congested traffic and navigating rest stops at the end of the day.

The Lindy Group also highlighted that small towns in PA are becoming increasingly difficult to navigate safely with modern heavy transportation demands, and are often avoided if possible. A vast majority of trucker safety concerns stem from stop-and-go traffic, particularly in parking lots. The increasing utilization of roundabouts as opposed to stop signs was noted as having no detrimental impact on our truckers, and the lack of a need to stop at an intersection may lead to safer roads and less minor stop-and-go induced accidents. With all this being shared, it was clear that the needs of our large trucking and transportation industries need to be considered when communities around the state look to update their aging infrastructure to meet the needs of the modern world. Bettering the state’s infrastructure, both our roads and rest locations, will create a safer environment for our travelers and industries.

“The cost of doing nothing will result in loss of life. We must fund these projects and get our supply chain moving SAFELY and efficiently again.”

Chad Marsilio,
Chief Operating Officer, PGT Trucking


Questions for the Impacts of Infrastructure Panel

The day’s hearing highlighted the challenges faced by Pennsylvania's transportation system, including the need for more funding, better road maintenance, and reforming our trucking regulations. Testifiers emphasized the importance of the Federal Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act, which could provide significant funding for the state's transportation infrastructure, but also shared the need for further advocacy from the legislature to procure federal funding for our local roads and less-traveled infrastructure. Looking towards emerging transportation issues, the Policy Committee heard the need for alternative infrastructure funding sources as state gas tax revenues continue to shrink. The hearing provided valuable insights into the obstacles faced by Pennsylvania's transportation system and the potential solutions to these challenges, and highlighted the successes and needs of our state and industries. The Policy Committee, and all who use the Commonwealth’s roads and bridges, were thankful for the day’s testimony.