Butler commissioners lobby for transportation funding bill

| Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Butler County Commissioners have lobbied state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe to approve a transportation funding bill, but Metcalfe is refusing to do so if the package involves a funding increase.

“This county is No. 6 in the country in job growth. It will not keep that rank if infrastructure is not addressed,” said Bill McCarrier, chairman of the Butler County commissioners.

Letters went back and forth between the county commissioners and Metcalfe this summer asking for Metcalfe's help in getting the funding bill approved, particularly in light of PennDOT's decision to lower weight limits on 1,000 deteriorating bridges in the state. PennDOT said it had to do that to extend the life of the bridges because without the funding bill, the money is not available to fix them.

“If a transportation bill doesn't get passed, it will have a negative impact on this whole area. It's bad for the whole state. We've had several businesses contact us about their frustration with this,” said McCarrier.

In a June letter to Metcalfe, McCarrier and his colleagues, Dale Pinkerton and James Eckstein, said that state funding for roads and bridges has not been adjusted for inflation since 1997 and that federal funding has not changed since 1993.

Inadequate transportation funding is not limited to bridges, Pinkerton said.

For years, traffic on Route 288 in southern Butler County has been a bottleneck.

“I'm sure that people who spend hours each week stuck in traffic on Route 228 would be in favor of a transportation bill. That road should have been widened years ago,” Pinkerton said.

In a letter to the commissioners, Metcalfe says he has never voted for a tax increase and never will.

“Taxpayers are paying enough already. We have to reprioritize how we spend. I will not vote for anything that includes new fees or taxes,” Metcalfe said.

Metcalfe's anti-tax views are problematic, Pinkerton said.

“He does not ever believe in raising taxes or fees. This area has all sorts of traffic issues. When we have bridges shut off and businesses not able to drive to and from their businesses, something needs to be done.”

In June, the state Senate passed a bill that would increase transportation spending by $2.5 billion a year. Leaders of the House Republican majority, including majority leader Mike Turzai of Bradford Woods, would not endorse the Senate bill.

Turzai last week said he would allow a vote on the bill.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at rwills@tribweb.com.

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