Three main issues worry leaders throughout the state: clean water, redevelopment, and transportation. Those things were tackled at a one-day conference in Pittsburgh, which included state and local leaders along with business owners and operators and community members. One of the biggest issues is funding transportation systems. It’s a problem Allegheny County knows all too well.
“For Steve Bland at the Port Authority, for all the different transit agencies out here, the costs go up and yet the revenues do not necessarily go up with them," said Barry Schoch, secretary of transportation for PennDOT. "Our cost of fuel, our cost of maintenance, the same is true for us, the cost of rebuilding bridges and pavement go up and yet our revenues are not going up.”
Schoch said the state’s transportation system has been underfunded for decades, and now is the time to take critical action. He and Governor Tom Corbett are working a plan.
“The solution we’re going to put forth next winter is going to be one that is sustainable, it’s going to show growth, so that we’re not in a situation where we have stagnant funding and inflation, we want to do something that is long-term, sustainable, and multi-modal, meaning we’re going to address every area of transportation,” said Schoch.
Ideas or Action Items?
He wouldn’t provide exact details of the plan, but said it will be about modernizing the system.
“It’s taking a look at our business practices and saying, ‘what can we do to make sure the dollars we get are used efficiently?’ And if we get more money, additional revenue coming from you, that they’re being used wisely,” added Schoch.
The transportation secretary gave a keynote address on the issue at the conference, followed by a panel discussion that included Schoch along with business leaders who rely on the transportation system, Port Authority CEO Steve Bland, and municipal leaders. Bland said whatever the governor’s plan looks like, it will have to offer reliability above anything else.
“The key issue is less about amounts, sources, the types of stuff that will be embedded in a bill of that nature, but the ability to plan and rely on a long-term stream,” said Bland, “I think I can probably speak for every transit rider in this room and say the most frustrating thing about the past five or six years is the constant state of turmoil.”
The 12th annual Southwestern Pennsylvania Smart Growth Conference was titled, “Partnering for Prosperity: Business and Local Government in SWPA – Tackling Three Make or Break Issues on our Watch.” Other topics included green infrastructure, innovative finance for urban redevelopment, and the importance of business and local governments working together to tackle issues.