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Labor, Religious, Activist Groups Join Forces to Call for Public Transit Funding in Allegheny County


At the doorway to the Pittsburgh City Council Chamber Tuesday morning, a score of people gathered to call for more investment in Pennsylvania's transportation systems, particularly concerning mass transit.

Members of the Allegheny County Labor Council, the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, City Council, and Pittsburghers for Public Transit all spoke in favor of pulling a transportation funding commitment from Governor Tom Corbett and the state legislature.

The groups said the state funding that saved the Port Authority of Allegheny County from large service cuts last year was a one-time fix, and the bus system will be in trouble again this summer without a funding solution.

Pittsburghers for Public Transit volunteer Molly Nichols said the proposal to uncap the state's gas tax for a $1.8 billion yearly profit is a good first step, but it's not enough. She said she wants a $3.5 billion annual transportation funding commitment from the state.

Nichols said Governor Corbett has indicated he'd like to save some money by introducing more public-private partnerships in transit systems, but she said she's wary of that change.

"If whole pieces of road or transit systems ... become private, dangers come with that, where the only lines that are running are the ones that are the most profitable, and we can't hold those groups as accountable as we can our legislators," said Nichols.

Pennsylvania has been shirking its responsibility for upkeep of its infrastructure, according to Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak.

"It's really our fathers and our forefathers that left us this tremendous amount of wealth in the form of this transportation infrastructure," said Rudiak. "It's up to us to maintain it and keep it going, and I refuse to let my generation be the one to squander this inheritance."

Rudiak introduced a Will of Council document today that urges the legislature and the governor to fully fund transportation systems in Pennsylvania.

Governor Corbett's Transportation Funding Advisory Committee made recommendations in the summer of 2011 as to how the state could earn the money to repair its deteriorating roads and bridges, and fund mass transit systems. Ideas included uncapping the gas tax, raising fees on licenses, and closing PennDOT locations. However, those recommendations haven't been considered until recently, when Corbett announced he would make transportation funding a priority in 2013.

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