Monday, November 29, 2004

Transportation blog needs a dozen worthy volunteers and contributors

This current events blog outsources chatter on transportation to a sister blog, The issue of transportation stretches from roads, potholes, river-traffic, light-rail extension, PAT's doomsday budgets, Mon Valley Toll Road and bikeways, to name a few.

We need a number of others willing to chime in on these matters, posting pointers and insights, at that blog. Interested? Willing?

Seems as if the special session to the legislature called for by both Jake Wheatly and Don Walko isn't happening in 2004. Snip from the New Pgh Courier:
Steve Mishkin, spokesman for House leader Sam Smith, R-Punxutawney, said the session is over and the governor is to blame.

“The administration would not do a supplemental, they wanted permanent taxes and fees as a temporary fix,” he said. “The governor can use surplus Intergovernmental Transfer Funds to tide PAT and SEPTA over. There’s $250 million right there and he doesn’t need legislative approval.”

In a letter sent to Rendell Nov. 12, Smith noted the legislature held off on discussing transit funding at Rendell’s request until an audit of SEPTA and PAT was completed. “Having just indicated (Nov. 22) that you received the final audit report Nov. 12, I am concerned that it has not been shared with either the House or Senate Transportation committees, or leadership as far as I know,” said Smith. “This information may have been helpful as we sought to reach an agreement on temporary funding for public transportation.”

Smith said he remains committed to working on further dedicated funding for mass transit early in the next session and urged Rendell to use the funds at his disposal, which he would have to do anyway since his proposed taxes would not yet be available.

“If using any of these funds truly creates a secondary problem, I propose we consider any transfer as a loan, which can be subsequently addressed during the general budget process,” he said.

PAT spokesperson Judy McNeil said the staff is assembling its public comment report for the board of directors and has put the process in motion to increase fares, cut service and layoff 500 employees by March.

“With nothing happening in Harrisburg, there is not enough we can do administratively to close a $30 million budget deficit,” she said. “On (Nov. 21) SEPTA sent out 1,400 pink slips. So it’s pretty gloomy around here.”

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