Pennsylvania’s gas tax highest in the U.S., so where is it going?

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“When I first started driving, I used to pull into a gas station, pay five dollars, and fill my car up,” Robert Johnson said just before filling his car at a Susquehanna Township gas station.

Johnson has been driving for 50 years, and he says a lot of things have changed.

“People are retired, income is not what it was years ago, and it gets expensive after awhile,” he said.

Johnson isn’t just paying for the fuel, and neither are you.

The federal government taxes 18.4 cents per gallon. On top of that, states add their own gas taxes. Pennsylvania’s is the highest in the country at approximately 50.4 cents per gallon.

“If you look at some of the roads, you wonder where your tax dollars are going,” Johnson said.

PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards showed ABC27 upcoming road projects funded by the gas tax in central Pennsylvania, like bridge work along I-83.

The gas tax comes from Act 89, passed in 2013. The revenue is used for road and bridge projects, some administrative overhead, infrastructure maintenance, and Pennsylvania State Police.

The PSP funding is a sticking point. The rationale behind it is that troopers patrol the highways, but lawmakers are questioning whether there should be different sources for State Police funding. The gas tax revenue makes up a large portion of the PSP budget, and PennDOT would like to free up that funding for road improvements.

“It allows us to plan in the long-term because we can count on this funding,” Richards said. “We know it’s reliable, it’s coming, and it allows us to plan for these big projects.”

Richards says the lower gas taxes in other states can mean less reliable funding, which can lead to project delays.

“Many times it has to be redesigned, many times you have to go back and get environmental permits that have expired, and you have to make sure all the utilities are correct,” Richards said. “So, you’re doing that work more than once and it can add a lot of money to a project.”

“Besides the immediate dollars and cents, PennDOT points to long-term benefits like businesses having reliable means of transportation, road safety, and even driver stress levels.

“The payoff is really with your quality of life,” Richards said. “I mean, do you enjoy sitting in congested areas or do you like to get home in time?”

For a look at completed, current, and upcoming road projects in your area that are funded by the gas tax, go to http://www.projects.penndot.gov/projects/ProgressMap.aspxGet breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download the ABC27 News App and the ABC27 Weather App for your phone and tablet.

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