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Pittsburgh Groups Call on Congress to Pass Transportation Funding

Transportation advocates in Pittsburgh and more than 100 other American cities are joining forces to call attention to the fast-approaching expiration of surface transportation funding from the federal government.

Thursday is being billed as Stand Up for Transportation Day. Chris Sandvig, regional policy director from the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, said most people don’t realize that funding is about to dry up.

“We are quite literally running out of money in late June and early July of this year, and our transportation system is going to grind to a halt as a result of that,” Sandvig said.

The last surface transportation funding bill passed by Congress was the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in July 2012. It was originally set to expire on Sept. 30, 2014, but was extended until May 31, 2015.

Sandvig said without federal funding, Pennsylvania’s efforts at shoring up its transportation system will fall short.

“In Pennsylvania, we took leadership to fix our state side of the problem, but without the … (federal) surface transportation bill, continuing to take care of our roads and bridges just to keep in them in a state of good repair becomes extremely difficult and in some cases impossible,” Sandvig said.

He said part of the problem is that the federal government relies on a flat 18.4 cent/gallon excise tax on gasoline to pay for transportation projects.

“Americans are driving less per person, and actually driving had been on the decline during the recession, so that combined with increased fuel economy means that there’s less money for roads, bridges, mass transit, ports, and airways,” Sandvig said.

Additionally, Sandvig said that 18.4 cents went a lot further in 1997, when it was passed, than it does today.

The PCRG will be joined by Pittsburghers for Public Transit, Bike Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development for Thursday’s advocacy event, schedule for 10 a.m. at the Wood Street T Station.

Sandvig is urging people to contact their Senators and Representatives in Congress to ask them to pass a transportation funding plan.

“The transportation system is the lifeblood of our economy. It’s how we get to work and how the stuff that we work to produce gets to market,” Sandvig said. “(It is) extremely vital for our own national interests and national security, and it’s important that Congress gets the message and does what it needs to do.”

The nationwide day of transportation advocacy is being organized by the American Public Transportation Association.