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House Appropriations Committee Explores Infrastructure Investment in Pittsburgh Hearing

How to fund transportation improvements hit a traffic jam this summer.

House Republican leaders wanted to spend less than the $2.5 billion the Senate passed, and neither can agree on where to get the money.

To try to break the gridlock, the House Appropriations Committee hosted a hearing in Pittsburgh Wednesday to explore how investments in infrastructure can generate economic growth.

“The General Assembly is in the middle of vetting several different transportation plans, it’s not clear exactly which one is needed, and that’s why we’re here,” said Rep. William Adolph (R-Delaware).

Vince Sands, chairman of BNY Mellon of Pennsylvania, said investing in infrastructure and mass transit would make Pennsylvania a competitive location for companies.

“Fifty percent of our people here in Pittsburgh depend solely, exclusively on public transportation … this is really important to us; we have to get our people to work,” Sands said. “It’s not only important to keep the location running, it’s an important issue when we’re competing for jobs to be done in Pennsylvania.”

According to the Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association, more than one million people use the transit systems every day.

Sands noted that public transportation has increased in popularity among college students.

“I think it’ll be easier to get the college students to stay here as a demographic. They definitely get mass transit,” Sands said. “They’re quick to jump on an off the T and the bus system, and I think it’s a vehicle, no pun intended, to get them to stay after they graduate which is a documented problem we face in Western Pennsylvania.”

With 5,540 structurally deficient bridges, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave Pennsylvania a C- for its infrastructure in 2010.

According to ASCE, 57 percent of Pennsylvania’s roads are considered to be in poor or mediocre condition.

Robert Rubenstein, Acting Executive Director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, told the panel investing in infrastructure projects can spur other investments.

“We did a $5 million makeover of Market Square, creating a great infrastructure sense of place, a public sense of place,” Rubenstein said. “That investment has attracted over thirty new restaurants within two blocks of Market Square within the last four years, so private investment follows infrastructure investment.”

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.