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Business, labor team up on state transportation bill

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By Bobby Kerlik
Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Flanked by construction workers, union officials, and business groups, officials from the Associated General Contractors of America criticized the state House on Thursday, saying its inaction on proposed funding to fix the state's aging infrastructure will cost jobs.

Richard Barcaskey, executive director of the Western Pennsylvania chapter of the contractors' association, said if a transportation funding bill is not passed soon, 7,200 construction jobs will be lost and another 7,200 jobs will be lost in other industries.

“In an environment where everything seems to be so partisan, it's remarkable you can get the PA Chamber (of Business and Industry) and organized labor all together. It shows there's a need and the General Assembly needs to act,” Barcaskey said.

“The main message is that business and labor are standing up together,” said Ken Zapinski, vice president of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. “There's going to be an impact on the economy if the state does not act.”

The leaders gathered for a news conference under the Liberty Bridge, one of 1,000 bridges statewide on which PennDOT slapped weight restrictions last week. The Liberty Bridge weight limit is 30 tons, which likely bars loaded tractor-trailers and dump trucks from crossing it.

A $2.5 billion funding plan that would have uncapped the wholesale gas tax and increased license and registration fees passed the Senate 45-5 but died in the House.

Among those who opposed it was state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, who contends PennDOT should pay for fixes out of the $7 billion it gets. He said the weight restrictions were a political move designed to wrestle more money from the Legislature, something PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch has denied.

Bill Patton, a spokesman for House Democratic leadership, said the Democrats agreed with the contractors' criticism.

“It's way overdue for the Legislature to get something done on transportation,” Patton said.

A spokeswoman said Gov. Tom Corbett wants a bill to move forward when legislators return to work this fall.

“He's open to discussion about the (funding) parameters,” said spokeswoman Kelli Roberts.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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