The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

December 21, 2013

Road plan result: Motorists will be hit in wallet

HARRISBURG — Gas prices, permit fees and speeding fines are all going up as the cost of the state’s multibillion dollar transportation plan starts hitting motorists in the new year.

Prices at the gas pump could increase 9 cents per gallon, according to Richard Kirkpatrick, a Department of Transportation spokesman, if gas companies pass through a tax increase tied to the bill.

The law eliminates a retail gas tax by increasing the wholesale tax paid by gas companies. It also lifts a cap on the tax rate those companies pay.

By the time the gas tax is fully phased in, the cost passed along could be about 28 cents per gallon, most analysts predict.

But that’s just a tiny part of the myriad ways the 127-page bill allows Harrisburg to reach into motorists’ wallets to repair roads and bridges and fund mass transit. Registration fees will increase over the next 18 months, as will surcharges tacked onto speeding tickets.

The fine for running a red light increases six-fold – from $25 to $150. And if you think it’s wise to blow through the EZ Pass lane on the turnpike without enrolling in the automatic toll payment plan, that could cost you $3,000 – on top of the full toll.

The transportation plan, signed by Gov. Tom Corbett on Nov. 25, promises money to fix thousands of bridges and more than 10,000 miles of roadway, according to PennDOT projections.

The ambitious agenda will be funded by the gas tax, as well as an array of fee and surcharge increases.

 Motorists don’t need to break the law to get hit with sticker shock. Registration fees for all vehicles will go up in July 2015, with increases tied to the rate of inflation in 2013 and 2014. After that, fees will increase at the rate of inflation every two years.

 Almost all of the major special interest groups that lobby in Pennsylvania supported the transportation plan. That includes the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

But the group’s general support for increased spending on roads and bridges doesn’t mean that farmers agree with all of the plan’s specifics.

Annual permits for commercial trucks that move fuel oil, glass, wooden structures, animals and feed will increase. The permit for a truck moving animals goes from $400 to $520. The permit for a feed truck increases from $400 to $587.

That rankles Todd Shearer, who is president of the Mercer County chapter of the Farm Bureau and co-owner of T.R. Shearer Ag Commodities in Carlton.

“We support upgrading the infrastructure. I don’t mind paying a little more (in gas tax),” said Shearer.

But the fees rub salt in the wound, he said. Shearer’s business has 13 trucks. The fees are particularly annoying because PennDOT makes businesses get permits based on what a truck hauls. A single truck may need multiple permits.

By law, money from the gas tax money must go toward road and bridge work. The state has an easier time shifting money from fee increases, said Rep. Brad Roae, R-Crawford, a critic of the increased transportation spending.

“About $500 million a year more will go to mass transit each year by January 2017 – about $400 million of it to Philadelphia since 80 percent of all mass transit trips in Pa. are there,” said Roae. “If you get a $100 surcharge on a ticket in the Meadville area, $80 of it will be sent to Philadelphia.”  

A counterpoint to that is the case made by PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch that gas taxes paid by the large number of motorists in the state’s big cities go toward road and bridge work in rural areas, noted Mark O’Neill, spokesman for the state Farm Bureau. As a result, O’Neill said he sees little problem with the state’s use of vehicle fees to subsidize mass transit systems.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • Halfway house inmates can ease back into society

    Prison life can be a time warp.
    When inmates are locked away – for months, years, decades – society moves forward: Technology evolves, major events occur, pop culture changes. From a personal perspective, families and friends live their lives: weddings, funerals, graduations, births, retirements. All the while, criminals bide their time, existing in a regimented world of cement walls and metal bars.
    Almost all of them eventually rejoin society, though.

    April 19, 2014

  • Crime board took aim at house

    Johnstown’s unemployment rate is around 8 percent.
    One-third of the city’s population lives in poverty.
    Burglaries and assaults significantly increased between 2010 and 2012. There is a thriving illegal trade in heroin and prescription drugs.
    Given those conditions, it can be challenging for Johnstown Community Corrections Center residents to find jobs when living in the facility or to avoid falling back into a criminal lifestyle upon their release.

    April 19, 2014

  • Homicides linked to center

    Three homicides that took place in Johnstown last year involved either a suspect or victim who previously resided in the Community Corrections Center.
    Police Chief Craig Foust confirmed the name of one victim, who spent almost two months in the facility on Washington Street during 2007, a time period verified by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

    April 19, 2014

  • bachota Volunteers helping to spruce up community

    Walls and ceilings inside the Cambria County Library look clean and bright with fresh new coats of paint on them.
    The work was recently done by inmates from the Johnstown Community Corrections Center.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • alanna Hartzok targets income disparity

    Alanna Hartzok described herself as being a conservative progressive.
    The Franklin County resident said she is in favor of conserving environmental resources, education opportunities, Social Security and Medicare, while wanting to progressively address wealth inequality, health care and taxation.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Schools rise to leadership challenge

    Forest Hills and Cambria Heights high school students put the spirit of healthy competition toward a good cause and picked up some lessons in leadership along the way.

    April 19, 2014

  • KATEY LADIKA Student’s photos win awards

    A Forest Hills High School junior has captured several awards in a high school arts and writing contest that has identified greats such as Truman Capote and Andy Warhol.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local briefs 4/20/2014

    April 19, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 19, 2014

  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 19, 2014

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads