Culver, Masser pleased with House approval of transportation plan
HARRISBURG - A House transportation funding plan approved on a third try Tuesday night, local legislators Lynda Schlegel-Culver and Kurt Masser were looking forward to the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway (CSVT) finally getting off the ground.
"I don't think the bill was perfect; I would like to have seen a number of other things done," Masser said. "But it was a bill we had to move. This will certainly put a lot of my constituents to work."
Culver called it a "victory" for CSVT.
The House vote salvaged the $2.3 billion transportation spending proposal and approved the same measure just one night after narrowly defeating it, twice.
The 106-95 vote was a test of support for the Republican-sponsored measure that's backed by Gov. Tom Corbett, the Associated Press reported. The proposal would raise gasoline taxes
and numerous motorist fees to spend billions on roads, bridges and mass transit systems. Culver expects final passage could come Thursday as the bill continues to be tweaked.
Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch says he thinks some lawmakers changed their votes after taking a day to think about it and realizing that their vote would be needed to pass a transportation bill, AP said.
It's a top priority of Senate leaders, and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi's office says it appears close to what an overwhelming Senate majority approved in June.
Culver (R-108) breathed a sigh of relief after Tuesday night's vote. She was optimistic in an interview about 5 p.m. that it would pass, but the vote had yet to be scheduled. The House then returned to the floor about 6:45 p.m.
"In Northumberland County alone, there are 160 bridges that need fixing and countless miles of roads that could be improved," she said prior to Tuesday's vote. "This is clearly a safety issue."
In April, Culver, Masser, Sen. John Gordner and others gathered in Shamokin Dam to tout the thruway as the largest project in a transportation bill that at that time seemed destined for easy approval.
The funding plan is expected to increase gas prices by as much as 28.5 cents per gallon, but Culver rejects the notion it's a massive tax increase. She said it would cost motorists an average of $2.50 to $4 more a week.
"We have the farm bureau, trucking unions, township and county associations all coming forward and supporting our efforts," she said.
"We will no longer have communities held hostage because of traffic jams," she added about the thruway. "This is something this area has been waiting for since 1969."
Masser (R-107) acknowledged the vote was tough, but he blamed that in part on past inaction.
"It was 10 years ago that (former Gov. Ed) Rendell had the special session on transportation and nothing has been done since. Every day we do nothing, it costs us a million dollars more," he said.
Masser said businesses have been hesitant to relocate to Pennsylvania because of its structurally deficient roads and bridges.
"We had to do something," he said.