Friday, June 25, 2010

PAT Passes Austere Budget

At its Board of Directors meeting today the Port Authority of Allegheny County adopted a $330 million operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year, projecting a $47.1 million revenue shortfall. Guy Mattola, chair of the Planning and Development Committee told attendees “unfortunately today we have to pass a balanced budget, the impact this will have on service in our region is drastic and possibly irreparable.”

Members of the board repeatedly mentioned that this was neither a cost nor expense problem, but a revenue problem that could only be addressed through action by the state legislature. Authority CEO Steve Bland says if the state legislature doesn’t come through with funding in the near future, the board will make specific recommendations to cut routes, increase fares and lay off workers at their meeting next month. The proposed changes would go through a public hearing process in August and September, the board would act on those changes in late September and they would go into effect in January. He says at any time state officials can halt that process by coming up with the funding. Bland says riders should understand that if these changes go through, it will not be like other instances in the past. He says this will “cut into meat, muscle and bone—we’ll be looking at complete areas of the community that will lose service.”

PAT and its sister agency SEPTA in Philadelphia had counted on funds from Act 44, which collapsed this spring after the Federal Department of Transportation rejected the state’s bid to toll Interstate 80 and use some of the revenue to fund other roadway projects and public transit. But today, PAT board treasurer James Dodaro moved to send a letter to officials, urging them to resubmit the bid, this time with the stipulation that all funds collected would go toward the maintenance of I-80. The federal government rejected the application in part because some funds would have been used for purposes not related to I-80. Dodaro says that would help relieve Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation of having to pay $200-$300 million a year to maintain the roadway, freeing up funds for public transit.

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