Should more money be allocated to PA’s roads and bridges or electric car charging stations.
April 7, 2021
President Joe Biden unveiled a massive $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan last week. A good portion of the money would come from tax increases on corporations, including the main corporate tax rate, which would be raised to 28%. Provisions in the bill include affordable housing, school construction, high-speed broadband and the power grid. It also includes $174 billion in electric vehicle investments, which would include a proposed 500,000 charging stations by 2030. By contrast, only $115 billion has been allocated for bridges and roads.
Currently, there are 550 charging stations across Pennsylvania according to NRDC.org (Natural Resources Defense Council). They say thousands more are needed across the state to support widespread electric vehicle adoption. There was also a bill, Pennsylvania Clean Transportation Act (Senate Bill 596), that was introduced in 2019 in order to help get electric utilities to build charging station networks. Unfortunately, the bill hasn’t had much traction since 2020. As far as Northeast PA goes, there are currently 59 charging stations in the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton area, two in Wayne County, one in Newfoundland and the other in Hawley, one in Milford, Pike County and none in Susquehanna County.
Pennsylvania has 251,271 road miles and more than 25,000 state owned bridges according to PennDOT. Pennsylvania has among the worst roads and bridges in the country, cited by various news reports. PennDOT received $407.2 in federal COVID relief funds but they say it isn’t enough to make up for a shortfall it has. PennDOT says it needs $15 billion to meet the needs of highway and bridge repairs but only has $6.9 billion available. PennDOT currently has 575 projects underway that total $5.2 billion. For every gallon of gas, there’s a 57.6-cent tax to PennDOT and an 18.5-cent tax to the federal government. That amount totals 74% of the funding that PennDOT receives; the remaining 17% comes from vehicle fees and 9% from the general fund. They also discussed charging tolls for state roads and bridges, and charging higher fees for driving in fast lanes and regular lanes to help with the shortfall. PennDOT has been plagued by funding issues for quite awhile. In 2019, then Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released an audit on PennDOT that said they diverted $4.25 billion from the Motor License Fund that was meant to be used to repair roads and bridges but used the money to fund the state police.
Given all of this, we asked what people in Thompson, Susquehanna County thought of giving more money to charging stations for electric cars than to roads and bridges. Nancy said, “I don’t think electric cars are practical for rural living. Right now I have to drive six miles for gas and doubt charging stations will be placed that close in rural areas. City living is different than country living. I like a bigger vehicle as I don’t shop every day. I go for a big grocery order and to stock up at Sam’s Club once a month or longer. So a bigger vehicle is more practical for my large grocery orders. Also, electric cars seem to be smaller and I wonder how good they would be on ice and snow. Our roads and bridges are in deplorable condition and should be first priority. I don’t think we should be driving 65 to 70 on an interstate highway and have to hit multiple potholes! PA has a high gas tax and where is this money going? It’s supposed to be going towards road repair and maintenance. State and local governments have to use the bidding process for road maintenance and go with the lowest bid. The lowest bid isn’t necessarily the best product and job quality. I think that makes a difference in how long the blacktop, etc. lasts.” Kay had her take, “ I think the electric car charging stations idea is stupid! I do not think it would be an easier or better mode of transportation. We have been paying taxes for road repairs and improvements and yet the roads and bridges are in such terrible shape. Where has that money been spent? I certainly would not want to depend on an electric car! Organize and get road repairs done and spend that money wisely and how it is supposed to be spent. Poor management with that situation!”
While electric cars are a nice option for a more urban area, Pennsylvania’s vast rural areas do not support that mode of transportation as the miles they travel on a daily basis would surpass the amount of a charge on an electric car. Residents in those areas have to travel a bit for getting staples like groceries or even for work. Their main concern is improving the condition of existing roads and bridges they use every day.