As a new legislative session begins in the U.S. Congress, Governor Tom Wolf today urged the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation to prioritize critical infrastructure needs for the commonwealth as a part of any potential new stimulus package and infrastructure package.
In a letter to the delegation, the governor emphasized that an investment in our infrastructure is critical to address current needs and help move Pennsylvania forward.
Throughout his administration Governor Wolf has emphasized the need to invest in our infrastructure, from high speed internet access and blighted properties to our aging transportation and stormwater infrastructures and greenspaces.
“Record job losses continue to impact Pennsylvania even as we are taking steps to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gov. Wolf said. “It is vital to the future success of our commonwealth that additional funding be allocated through a comprehensive and robust infrastructure package, as well as stimulus funding, to address the immediate and long-term needs of those left behind by the changing dynamics of our industries, as well as provide additional job opportunities across many sectors.”
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the need for high speed internet to bridge the digital divide. Without broadband access, Pennsylvanians lack the ability to find job opportunities, school-aged children cannot engage in remote learning, and emergency service communications are drastically reduced. According to the Federal Communications Commission, more than 800,000 Pennsylvanians lack access to robust, reliable, high-speed internet, with more than 520,000 of those residents living in rural areas.
“It is absolutely critical that additional funding for broadband access be included in federal legislation, so that our commonwealth can meet the challenges of the 21st century and embrace new opportunities for growth and competitiveness,” Gov. Wolf said.
The governor also called for additional funding to remediate blighted properties, which is one of the main challenges to revitalizing communities and neighborhoods. Further, the governor is calling for federal support for lead, PFAS and other chemical cleanup and remediation efforts, as well as abandoned former industrial and commercial sites to allow for new growth and development on these properties.
“Revitalizing these locations improves the health and quality of life of our citizens, while also injecting much-needed revenue into our local communities by returning once lifeless properties to the tax rolls,” Gov. Wolf said.
As Pennsylvania continues to be a significant producer of clean-burning natural gas, federal funding is critical to help Pennsylvania to build new and revitalize old manufacturing facilities, so businesses and individuals can use our natural gas, creating jobs, lowering costs, and improving energy efficiency.
The governor also emphasized the need for federal infrastructure funding to address the state’s massive and aging transportation network.
The American Society of Engineers’ 2018 “infrastructure report card” gives Pennsylvania a D+ rating for the quality of its roads and bridges, and a D for its transit.
“This is unacceptable but can easily be remedied with additional funding from the federal government to improve our highways, bridges, and secondary roads as well upgrade our strained transit systems,” Wolf said.
Further, the state’s stormwater infrastructure has not kept pace with new development and the effects of climate change. The governor called for a substantial federal investment to develop proper stormwater management, including the diversion of rain from overflowing sewers to prevent the flooding of streets and homes, improvement of local water quality, and the lessening of runoff and pollution.
“As we continue to see record high precipitation levels, it is critical that additional funding be provided to update our stormwater systems to not only protect Pennsylvanians, but our environment as well,” Gov. Wolf said.
Maintaining Pennsylvania’s natural resources – parks, trails, greenways, riverfronts and open spaces – is critical to protecting our environment but also attracting individuals and families to communities, offering recreational opportunities and retaining the workforce that will power Pennsylvania’s economy. The governor called for additional investments to upgrade and fix park and forest infrastructure, including buildings and trails, to protect and maximize our green spaces and preserve them for generations to come.
“The potential for Pennsylvania is endless, but additional funding is needed to achieve the goals of vibrant towns and cities, with new development and opportunities in rural and disadvantaged areas, creating a modern, interconnected commonwealth,” Gov. Wolf said. “These priorities of reinvesting in our communities, if given robust funding through stimulus money and a comprehensive infrastructure package, will ensure Pennsylvania is ready and able to compete in our post-pandemic economy.”