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PennDOT Avoids Major Shutdown But Needs Long-Term Funding Fix

HARRISBURG (KDKA) - The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has avoided a major shutdown. PennDOT had originally said it expected to run out of money Dec. 1.

According to legislators, the pandemic has brought fewer people out onto the road, resulting in less gas taxes being collected and $500 to $600 million in revenue losses for PennDOT, creating an urgent need to borrow funds.

But with more than 240,000 jobs and over 6,000 projects in jeopardy, this week, Gov. Tom Wolf reached a last-minute agreement with legislators.

In a statement, PennDOT told KDKA, "To avoid devastating impacts to the transportation industry as a result of language on bonding authority not being included in the enacted Fiscal Code, the Governor agreed to a request by legislative leaders to find a short-term solution, operating in good faith that they will resolve this issue at the beginning of the next legislative session."

Democratic State Senator Lindsey Williams called it "a little bandaid."

PennDOT said since the money it's using now is being borrowed from other projects, it'll need to be paid back separately from any long-term solution.

"We're going to do another bandaid when we come back first thing in January," said Williams.

That next bandaid will be new legislation co-sponsored by Senators Lindsey Williams and Katie Muth, authorizing PennDOT to receive up to $600 million in bonds, Williams said.

But, if approved, that funding would only last through June 2021.

"What that language does and what that bill will do is give PennDOT the authority to borrow against the motor license fund to make up for any lost revenue they don't receive from the gas tax," Williams said.

"While this temporary fix allows for projects to continue and our workers to remain employed through the holiday season, we need a permanent solution that ensures long-term planning and continued improvements of these critical transportation corridors without unnecessary interruptions," said Muth.

Lawmakers told KDKA these funding issues only underscore the need for big picture infrastructure spending in the Keystone State.

"Investment in infrastructure is a really good investment. It not only keeps our roads and bridges safe, it keeps people working. Those people invest in our economy," said Williams.

Lawmakers will present the new legislation in two weeks.

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