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Corbett urges passage of a transportation funding bill during Pittsburgh visit

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 5:24 p.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Governor Tom Corbett stands under the Birmingham Bridge during a press conference to discuss transportation funding at Riverfront Park on the South Side, Wednesday.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Governor Tom Corbett stands under the Birmingham Bridge during a press conference to discuss transportation funding at Riverfront Park on the South Side, Wednesday.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Governor Tom Corbett holds a piece of concrete that fell from a bridge in Beaver county during a press conference under the Birmingham Bridge to discuss transportation funding at Riverfront Park on the South Side, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013.

Gov. Tom Corbett urged the Legislature on Wednesday to pass a transportation funding bill to fix crumbling roads and bridges, and said it is “reasonable” to adjust prevailing wage law in order to get Republican votes to get the bill passed.

“I'm for whatever gets the bill done. It's that simple,” Corbett said. “Is (prevailing wage reform) something that's been put on the table by certain parties? Yes, it is. Is it unreasonable to take a level set in 1961 and move it up to $100,000 now? I don't think it's unreasonable.”

The 1961 prevailing wage law pegs those rates to projects above a $25,000 threshold. Projects above the threshold in urban areas typically are subject to higher union rates, even if they are nonunion projects. The wage rate varies by county.

Corbett, flanked by politicians and business leaders, spoke next to the Birmingham Bridge in the South Side, which is in line for a $34 million rehabilitation. A rocker bearing on the bridge failed in 2008, triggering an 8-inch drop in the bridge deck that required emergency repairs.

Brett Marcy, spokesman for House Democrats, said Democratic leaders don't believe the issues should be linked.

“The No. 1 priority should be creating additional jobs, not tearing down wages,” Marcy said. “We would argue it's reasonable to expect a fair day's wage for a day's work. We agree (transportation funding is a priority). Let's take (prevailing wage) off the table.”

Corbett said the change wouldn't affect nearly $2 billion in projects that PennDOT funds each year. He said the savings would benefit mostly local governments.

The Senate in June approved a $2.5 billion transportation bill by a 45-5 vote. The bill could increase gasoline prices 25 cents per gallon over five years, critics contend. The House has balked at approving a bill.

Corbett initially proposed raising $1.8 billion but said he's willing to increase the amount.

“Both sides have to be willing to reach a consensus. That might mean making a slight adjustment and a slight give in your position,” Corbett said.

PennDOT slapped weight restrictions on more than 1,000 deteriorating bridges across the state in August.

Bobby Kerlik is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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