Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bill Would Reconfigure PAT Board

A second state lawmaker from Allegheny County is proposing legislation to change the makeup of the board of the Port Authority of Allegheny County.
Democratic State Senator Wayne Fontana of Brookline says reconfiguring the PAT board would ensure better representation of those impacted by the panel's decisions.
Last week Democratic State Representative Chelsa Wagner of Beechview introduced a bill that would have each of the 4 state legislative caucuses appoint one member to the PAT board.

Fontana's bill would require the County Chief Executive to appoint members to the board that would represent specific segments of the population: a member of the House and Senate from Allegheny County, a member of the Transit Council, and a member that would represent labor.

“The Commonwealth currently provides 63% of the Port Authority’s budget, yet has absolutely no say in the decisions made by the board in regard to service or other issues. This has to change,” Fontana said. “Ensuring that the users (Transit Council) and labor are also at the table is important to provide a full understanding of the issues before the board.”

Currently, the nine-member board is appointed by the Chief Executive and confirmed by County Council. The only requirement is that members must be residents of the county and citizens of the United States and that one member must be a member of County Council.

Fontana's legislation would not put such restrictions on the boards of other public transit agencies that also receive significant state funding. For example, the Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) receives $555 million in state subsidies which is about half of its operating budget.

Fontana says the state was counting on tolling Interstate 80, which would have meant an additional $30 million a year for PAT, and when the federal government rejected that proposal it "blew a hole" in the Act 44 transportation funding plan...

“Designating members of the board will, hopefully, provide a clearer picture of the state’s responsibility and capability to address funding and to identify options available locally.

The senator said this bill is not aimed at anyone in particular but the PAT board is not getting a state perspective..."If the state's going to provide funding, which it does obviously, it should be sitting at the table when we talk about solutions and plans to move forward and keep the Port Authority intact."

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