Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series highlighting the local impact of Trump’s policies in key counties in MI, PA, WI, and FL.
In a campaign rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania in November 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump promised Pennsylvanians he would pass an infrastructure plan to fix the Pennsylvania Turnpike, stating “My infrastructure plan will provide help for… did you ever hear of a place called the Pennsylvania Turnpike? Needs some help. Needs some work.”
But nearly three years into President Trump’s first term, the Pennsylvania Turnpike is saddled with record debt and a crumbling infrastructure, and the president has yet to pass a single plan, or lift a finger to help rebuild it.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike spans 360 miles, beginning in Ohio and running through Pennsylvania — connecting Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia — and winds through the Appalachian Mountains before ending at the New Jersey border. The Turnpike was originally created in the 1930s to improve transportation across Pennsylvania’s mountains. In the 2017 fiscal year, over 570,000 vehicles traveled the PA turnpike, approximately 83,000 of which were commercial vehicles used to transport goods and services for interstate commerce.
But the PA Turnpike is in deep debt, and without Federal support, its infrastructure will continue to erode, which could have serious economic and travel ramifications for the millions of passengers who travel its tollways every year.
By 2057, the Pennsylvania Turnpike will have to pay PennDOT over $9.65 billion, which currently prevents the Turnpike from being able to make improvements to its existing infrastructure.
Mark Compton, the Turnpike’s CEO, said the debt service payments on that borrowing now eats up about half of the $1.2 billion the turnpike collects in tolls, leaving little to make improvements to the 78-year old road, an article by PennLive said in March 2019.
Unless the Trump Administration actually steps in, the Pennsylvania Turnpike will have to raise tolls by 6% every year until 2044 just to pay off its current debt load.
In 2018, the American Society of Civil Engineers rated Pennsylvania’s infrastructure a C-, with 13 of the 18 categories by which it evaluates infrastructure receiving an equal or worse score than previous evaluations.
Just a month before his election in 2016, President Trump hinged his campaign on a promise to rebuild U.S. infrastructure, emphatically pledging to spend $1 trillion after assuming office.
But since his inauguration, neither that money — nor a bill to allocate it towards rebuilding infrastructure — has seen the light of day.
Furthermore, on six separate occasions, President Trump has declared an “Infrastructure Week” in the White House.
And six separate times “Infrastructure Week” failed.
“No longer will we allow the infrastructure of our magnificent country to crumble and decay,” the president said defiantly during an infrastructure week in February 2018.
But for all the President’s bluster, America’s buildings, bridges, and freeways — including the Pennsylvania Turnpike — have continued to crumble.