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Shuster pushes transportation at 49th Progress Council event

| Thursday, April 24, 2014, 1:06 a.m.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster recalled speaking with a businessman who was watching one of his company's trucks and noted, “We're all in the transportation business.”

“We're all in the transportation business,” Shuster agreed. “We have to make sure we have an integrated transportation system in our country.”

Shuster recalled the discussion Wednesday as he served as the keynote speaker during the Mon Valley Progress Council's 49th annual dinner meeting.

The event took place at the Willow Room in Rostraver Township.

On a night when state Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch was honored for leadership in passage of the state transportation bill in 2013, Shuster said Congress must follow suit.

“PennDOT did its job and now the U.S. and Congress has to do its job to make sure transportation is funded,” Shuster said.

“We need the citizens of this region and the U.S. to understand the importance of transportation. We have to make sure we make the right investment in transportation.”

Speaking in a room heavy with business leaders, the Hollidaysburg Republican said that just as companies invest in their plants, the nation must invest in “its plants,” its transportation infrastructure.

Shuster said Congress must first extend the Highway Trust Fund through year's end. It is set to run out of money in early July.

While he said there are no guarantees about passage of a new federal transportation bill, he said it will be a tough sell for approval before year's end.

Shuster said the public is needed to drum up support for the transportation legislation when it comes up for votes in the House and Senate.

“We need you guys on the ground,” Shuster said.

Shuster called the pending federal transportation legislation a jobs bill. He said infrastructure improvements are needed to move commerce.

“This is something we have to do or Pennsylvania won't be competitive,” Shuster said.

Schoch became the 13th person to receive the Allison Maxwell Leadership Award and the first from outside the Mon Valley.

Named for a former Pittsburgh Steel president, it is awarded for outstanding community leadership.

Schoch, who could not attend, delivered his acceptance speech via video.

He credited Shuster for leadership on transportation issues in the U.S. House.

Schoch recalled meeting Mon Valley Progress Council Executive Director Joe Kirk 25 years ago while working to advance the Mon/Fayette Expressway. He credited progress council leadership for expressway successes.

Schoch said Act 89, the new state transportation law, “brings needed revenue for commonwealth transportation infrastructure.”

“PennDOT is responsible for moving people and products safely through Pennsylvania,” Schoch said. “We applaud this important investment in transportation.”

Revenue raised by Act 89 permits Pennsylvania to be competitive with its neighbors, Schoch said.

The Middle Monongahela Industrial Development Authority received the Frank Irey Jr. Join in Progress Award for continued development of the Alta Vista business park in Fallowfield Township.

MIDA President John LaCarte said the agency sees its role as making land available for companies to create economic development.

He thanked the Progress Council for forming MIDA in 1966 in reaction to the loss of the U.S. Steel plant in Donora. That rust belt property was developed into MIDA's first industrial site. LaCarte encouraged development of a closer working relationship between MIDA and the Progress Council.

Michelle Herron, Mon River Industrial Group CEO, accepted a second Frank Irey Jr. joined in Progress Award. The group was honored for its efforts to convert the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel plant to an industrial site.

Herron said that when the group submitted its bid for the 896,000-square-foot site, it was the only prospective buyer willing to renovate, not demolish it.

“We want to return jobs to the location that at one time employed over 3,200,” Herron said.

The group has invested in the site over the past two years, renovating it with an eye toward attracting the first of hopefully many new employers.

“Like Frank Irey, we promise a can-do approach,” Herron said.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or

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