State needs to create stable funding for mass transit; turnpike CEO to speak at chamber luncheon | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

State needs to create stable funding for mass transit; turnpike CEO to speak at chamber luncheon

Joe Napsha
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PennDOT Deputy Secretary Jennie Granger
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Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission CEO Mark Compton

A report by the Southwest Partnership for Mobility, chaired by state and local officials, calls for stable statewide public transportation funding without relying on the Turnpike Commission giving PennDOT $450 million a year.

Providing a sustainable funding source would ease the Turnpike Commission’s debt burden, as well as the need for future toll increases, which have been almost an annual occurrence, the report said. It also will allow the Turnpike Commission, which is about $11.8 billion in debt, to continue expanding and maintaining its system.

“Doing nothing is the most expensive option that we have right now,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in a statement.

The Southwest Partnership, which included transportation agencies, local elected officials, major employers and civic leaders, calls for the General Assembly to consider alternative funding sources. The turnpike needs relief from Act 44, passed in 2007 to divert at least $450 million a year to PennDOT for 50 years. The annual payments should be lowered before 2022, possibly by $100 million a year, to give the turnpike relief from that financial burden, the report states.

Current transit funding is a combination of federal, state and local sources. Subsequent federal government decisions and additional funding obligations have resulted in the Turnpike Commission facing growing debt, the partnership said in a statement.

Mark Compton, Turnpike Commission chief executive, will discuss the turnpike’s funding obligation to PennDOT, as well as toll increases, during a joint appearance with PennDOT Deputy Secretary Jennie Granger at a Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday. The event is to begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Westmoreland Country Club, Mellon Road, Penn Township.

“We simply cannot meet our region’s growing demand for public transit service without reliable and sustainable funding,” said Port Authority of Allegheny County CEO Katharine Kelleman in a statement.

To keep the region competitive, the state needs to give local officials authority to explore locally enacted revenue sources. Those local officials will be able to decide about investments in more projects to accommodate and accelerate regional growth, the report contended.

“It’s just the beginning of the process,” Alan Blahovec, executive director of the Westmoreland County Transit Authority, said of the report from the Southwest Partnership. Blahovec said he was not involved in the group that developed the report.

The county transit authority receives about $3.6 million in funding from PennDOT, about the same as last year. By comparison, the Port Authority Transit receives close to $250 million, Blahovec said.

The transit authority would prefer a statewide solution to the issue of funding mass transit, rather than expecting local officials to raise the money, Blahovec said.

, To register for Thursday’s luncheon, contact Tricia Thomas at 724-834-2900, [email protected] Pre-registration is necessary as space is limited.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Regional | Westmoreland
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