Transportation
8:52 pm
Thu January 19, 2012

County Executive, State Democrats Call on Governor to Take Action on Transportation Funding

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Dan Frankel is introducing a package of bills he said would put a stop to drastic cuts proposed by the Port Authority. The bills would dedicate 2 percent of existing sales tax revenue to mass transit and restructure Act 44 to take contributions the Turnpike Commission is currently making to highways and bridges and put more toward mass transit.

"That would be an additional $200 million above and beyond the $250 million they're already getting, the sales tax would generate $102 million," said Frankel.

The Port Authority announced on Wednesday that without state funding, they'd have to eliminate 45 routes, scale back remaining routes with shorter hours and no weekend service in some cases, increase fares, and close two garages. The Port Authority estimates about 45,000 daily riders will be left stranded if these changes take effect.

Flanked by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and numerous state lawmakers, including State Representatives Paul Costa and Joe Preston and State Senators Jay Costa and Wayne Fontana, Frankel echoed what many are concerned about if these cuts go through.

"If we can't sustain an environment where we can move people to their jobs, where we can move products and services around that businesses provide, where we can get our elderly parents to their doctor's appointments and their hospitals, the quality of life we've created in Pittsburgh and throughout the Commonwealth is at stake," said Frankel.

Frankel said the bills have bi-partisan support, despite not being joined at the county meeting by any Republicans. Fitzgerald said he believes that once people fully understand the impacts the transit cuts would have, more lawmakers will support funding changes at the state level. However, he also acknowledged any solutions will have to be multi-faceted.

"The two biggest factors are the dedicated funding from the state and the legacy costs that must be addressed locally. It's taken the Port Authority almost 50 years to get into this hole. It's not going to happen overnight," said Fitzgerald.

Frankel said the bills are a starting point for debate in Harrisburg. He and the other lawmakers repeatedly called on Governor Tom Corbett to take action on transportation funding, and voice his support for legislation, and added that without his support, the bills would likely go nowhere.