Economy
9:50 pm
Mon January 9, 2012

Infrastructure Investment Called for at Jobs Hearing

At the House Democratic Policy Committee's public hearing on job creation on Monday, many speakers called on legislators to pass a bill to fund transportation infrastructure investments.

Frank Snyder, the Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, said that not only do roads and bridges need repair, but many other kinds of infrastructure could be improved as well. He pointed to the hundreds of dams in Pennsylvania that are structurally weak, and said that thousands of jobs could be created by strengthening such water infrastructure.

Snyder said that the state's railways are also in need of some reworking, and suggested that Pennsylvania invest in the creation of high-speed passenger rail lines.

"It certainly would do a heck of a lot to combat the massive traffic bottlenecks that we've seen in so many parts of our state," said Snyder, "and also ease the pollutants on the environment."

Snyder said whatever the infrastructure investment, the time to start working is now.

"Deteriorating infrastructure is subject to cost acceleration, where the repair or the replacements grow in time," said Snyder. "It's common-sense economics. A project that costs $5 million today may, in fact, cost $20 million in just a few years from now. There is a cost to inaction."

Other proponents of infrastructure funding to create jobs gathered at the hearing. Among them were the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Mon Yough Area Chamber of Commerce, and the United States Steel Corporation.

Governor Tom Corbett received recommendations from his Transportation Funding Advisory Commission last summer, but the legislature has yet to pass a bill to fund transportation infrastructure investments since then.

U.S. Steel General Manager for Government Affairs Christopher Masciantonio said that another key area of potential job creation is the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry. Masciantonio said that not only does the burgeoning industry provide direct employment, but it also creates demand for various manufactured goods in Pennsylvania.

Masciantonio said that the legislature should support the "responsible development" of the Marcellus Shale gas formation, which, he said, would create jobs in his company, particularly at the McKeesport steel tube factory.

"They're servicing, primarily, the Marcellus Shale," said Masciantonio. "The steel's being made right here in the Mon Valley, from iron ore and coal all the way to steel pipe coming out the door in McKeesport. It's all based on the market, but if the market continues to grow with these natural gas shale plays, you'll see future investment."