PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - For the past decade, you've been paying the third-highest gas tax in the nation at the pump -- money that was intended to fix our bridges and our roads. Only that's not where it went.
"People paid the gas tax assuming that money was going to roads and bridges and $4.2 billion was diverted and it's inexcusable," former Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said.
Two years ago, DePasquale sounded the alarm about the reappropriation of money designed to repair the state's 2,800 structurally deficient bridges. His audit found the state diverted $4.2 billion earmarked for the reconstruction and repair of our bridges and roads — money he says that could have prevented the collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge, which an engineer cited in 2017 for deterioration and recommended $1.5 million in repairs that were never funded.
"This was not a surprise. If you go back and look at that engineering report, this was not a surprise to people in the know," he said
The audit found the money went instead to fund state patrols in towns that lacked or disbanded their own police departments. While a noble cause, DePasquale says the diversion of the gas tax money was improper and urges the governor and the legislature to restore it and match the billion dollars coming the state's way under the trillion dollar infrastructure bill.
"Have all gas tax money go to roads and bridges, combine that with the federal money. Let's make a serious dent in the structurally-deficient bridges in Pennsylvania. Probably if you combine those two funds, and you do it over five or six years, you can get rid of it, but you've got to start," he said.
UPDATE: Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, at 10 a.m.
The Governor's Office disputes the former Auditor General's claim the gas tax money could have gone to fix the Fern Hollow Bridge. It says those funds would be designated for state bridges and Fern Hollow is owned by the city of Pittsburgh. Further, it issued a statement saying the governor has tried to find another funding source for the PA State Police.
"Throughout this administration, the governor has proposed various ways to address state police funding, none of which have been supported by the Republican-led legislature, nor have they proposed sound funding solutions. The governor will continue to seek creative ways to address state police funding. The governor also thanks the Biden Administration for its commitment to invest in our infrastructure, which will provide significant support for our roads and bridges, as, again, the Republicans continue to block our efforts to address this critical issue."
We will be updating this story in Wednesday night's broadcast.
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