A statement from Bryan Lentz, Democratic candidate for the 7th congressional district:
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s recent rejection of the plan to turn Interstate 80 into a toll road has left our state’s transportation budget in crisis. Now, tough decisions lie ahead as we look for other ways to fund mass transit and much-needed repairs to Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges.
We cannot keep plugging budget holes with stopgap measures that make no improvements in the long-term strength of our transportation system. This is an opportunity to reevaluate and reform the piecemeal way we look at our state’s transportation infrastructure, and we should seize it. We need a comprehensive, regional approach to our transportation system, not patches to an antiquated process that fails to coordinate across modes of transportation and between transportation hubs.
Last December I reintroduced legislation that would establish a Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Airport Authority, an organization that would help balance the traffic between underused and overcrowded airports and coordinate air and high-speed rail routes so that travel to all destinations is as fast, affordable, and efficient as possible.
A regional airport authority is just one component within what should be a larger movement to reform how we plan and invest in our transportation infrastructure.
Other states have already created effective intermodal authorities. In New York, for example, the Port Authority controls tunnels, bridges, airports, and seaports. In the Philadelphia region, unfortunately, we have no intermodal entity but separate entities for ports, airports, transit, the turnpike, and so on. Each entity has its own layers of patronage and political appointees, its own budget and ability to invest and incur debt. No single entity can develop and execute a comprehensive plan to transform our region’s transportation infrastructure. Each entity raises and expends funds independently and often on projects unrelated to transportation. This fragmented approach won't work if we are ever going to modernize and transform our transportation system. This transformation must include high-speed rail, but when it came time to campaign for federal investment in our state’s high-speed rail development, Pennsylvania missed out on a large portion of the funds.
We cannot have a first-rate economy without a first-rate transportation system, and for the future, that must include high-speed rail. In China, where much of the country still lives in rural undeveloped conditions, they nonetheless have trains that travel in excess of 300 km/h between their major cities. Other countries in Asia and Europe are already investing billions of dollars in improvements to their roadways, high-speed rail, and light rail.
To remain globally competitive, our state and our country cannot lag behind in the condition of our infrastructure. A modern and efficient transportation system capable of the quick and cost-effective movement of goods and people is a necessary foundation for economic growth. America, and in particular our region, should strive to have the best transportation system in the world bar none, in order to have the best economy in the world bar none.
A special session of the legislature will be required to address the funding gap emergency. We should not let this opportunity for evaluation and real change slip by. Fully funding maintenance and repairs will be easier in a streamlined, modernized transportation system that is designed and run with a common-sense, holistic approach.
A regional transportation authority and new high-speed rail development are the kinds of transformational policies that we need for real progress in our state’s infrastructure and economy.
A former Airborne Ranger, criminal prosecutor and Iraq war veteran Bryan Lentz currently serves in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from Delaware County. Lentz serves on the Appropriations Committee, on the Transportation Committee and as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Relations for the Inter-Governmental Affairs Committee in Harrisburg. He was awarded both the Bronze Star for Service and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal for his military service. He lives in Swarthmore with his wife Jennifer and their son Thomas.