Thursday, December 2, 2010
A looming 35% percent service reduction and layoffs at the Port Authority of Allegheny County have been averted--at least for now. Today Governor Ed Rendell announced that he and Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler had found $45 million in federal economic development funding. The money was originally intended for projects that never got off the ground and Rendell emphasized that using the money would not take away from any other highway, bridge or road project. The funds must now be approved by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission. But the governor and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato were quick to point out that the cash infusion is not a permanent solution. Rendell called it a one year fix, "but it's important because it will allow us to avoid these devastating service cuts...and it will give incoming Governor Corbett and the legislature the time to deal with the loss of the I-80 funding in Act 44. The legislature in my judgment must act." PAT Board CEO Steve Bland says the authority has made huge strides in streamlining operations, "but without a reliable statewide funding source for all forms of transportation, it will be impossible for us to maintain our mission." He also noted that while the drastic cuts would be off the table with the approval of the $45 million, they haven't ruled out the January fare increases. Rendell says this is it for funding, though he wishes there was more to go around "I would have done something for transit needs in the southeast or the central part of the state, but this was the most dire situation."