PennDOT Chief: Higher Driver Cost vs. Worse Roads

Aug 25, 2011

Pennsylvania's top transportation official said if the state adopts recent recommendations for funding its worn-out roads and bridges, it will raise costs for drivers. But, he said that's not necessarily worse than the alternative.

Pops Gets His Own Stamp

Aug 25, 2011

Pittsburgh Pirates Hall Of Famer Willie Stargell will be honored by the U.S. Postal Service with his own first class stamp. WECT-TV in Wilmington, NC got the OK from the Postal Service to report the new stamp on Wednesday, a day before it was officially announced. Stargell lived in Wilmington until he died in 2001. His wife's twin sister works at the station. Stargell played for the Pirates from 1962 to 1982, hit 475 home runs, and led the Pirates to a pair of World Series victories.

PEMA: Quake Info Flowed Well

Aug 24, 2011

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) said coordination after Tuesday's earthquake went according to plan. The scope of the quake was small enough that PEMA allowed various state agencies, including PennDOT and the Public Utility Commission, as well as nuclear power plants, to work independently to send out status updates.

Pennsylvania's Top Elections Official Favors Voter ID at the Polls

Aug 24, 2011

A member of the Corbett administration is voicing her support for a state law requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polls. Carol Aichele, the commonwealth's Secretary of State, said her department aims to protect every Pennsylvanian's right to vote.

If a voter ID law is passed and signed, a person would only be able to cast a ballot, in person or by mail, after proving three things: U.S. citizenship, residency in Pennsylvania and that he or she is 18 years or older. "The voting requirements are pretty … pretty generous," said Aichele.

Study Shows Home Visiting Programs Make Big Impact

Aug 24, 2011

A new report from the Pew Center says states should invest in research-backed home visiting programs, because early intervention will save money in the long run. The study also found that states that are investing in the programs too rarely use evidence of effectiveness to inform policy decisions. Home visiting programs are voluntary. Low income and young women sign up when they are pregnant, and home visitors make sure expectant mothers are taking care of themselves.

A local education nonprofit is asking teachers in Pittsburgh's middle and high schools what they need to do their job better.

A+ Schools Executive Director Carey Harris said her organization aims to talk with more than 100 teachers from Pittsburgh Public Schools and three charter schools. Harris said the 30-minute sessions will be a confidential means of determining the schools' strengths and weaknesses.

Quake Causes Only Minor Damages in Pittsburgh

Aug 23, 2011

The 5.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked much of the East Coast today did not cause structural damage to any major local facilities or utility lines, said Allegheny County Emergency Services Acting Chief Alvin Henderson.

Henderson said the extent of the damage reports he's received is several cases where brick facades and chimneys tumbled down in the tremors. He said he's not heard reports of any injuries in the county.

The environmental group Sustainable Pittsburgh is hosting a "Green Workplace Challenge" competition for the city's businesses.

Sustainable Pittsburgh Program Manager Matt Mehalik said the friendly competition will rank businesses in the Pittsburgh area, based on how many green design features they can implement and how much energy and water they can save over the next year.

A new study claims the difference in pay between Pennsylvania public employees and their private sector counterparts is "statistically insignificant."

When both wages and benefits are taken into account, public employees make about 2.1% less than private sector workers on an hourly basis, according to the study recently released by the Keystone Research Center and the Economic Policy Institute, working with Rutgers University.

Tiny Wasps Used to Attack Ash-Destroying Beetle

Aug 22, 2011

The Emerald Ash Borer has destroyed or severely damaged more than 40 million ash trees in 15 states, including Pennsylvania. The beetle is native to China, but was first detected in 2002 in Michigan, and then was found in Pennsylvania four years ago. At least 12 counties in the commonwealth are infested with the pest. Past eradication efforts have not succeeded, so agriculture and forestry officials have been trying to contain the pest by placing quarantines on hardwoods.

The Eastern Hellbender is a salamander of many names:

"The snot otter's probably my favorite. Waterdogs is what a lot of people call them in the area. Allegheny Alligator is another one, I've heard that one as well," says Eric Chapman. Chapman works with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the PPG Aquarium, and Purdue University to study eastern hellbender salamanders in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Hellbenders live in large streams and rivers. Chapman and his team have been conducting hellbender surveys in the Little Mahoning Creek Watershed since 2007.

Consol Energy announced this week that it's selling half of its interest in Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania and West Virginia to Houston-based Noble Energy for $3.4 billion. A local energy expert says that he expects such deals to continue. "The amount of available shale gas is so great that it's becoming beyond the ability of any company to develop its own acreage," said Kent Moors of the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Duquesne University.

The infant mortality rate rose by 7% in Pennsylvania since 2000 but the death rate among children ages 1 to 14 fell by 10%. Those are 2 of the 10 indicators examined in the 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book that tracks the well-being of children in each state and nationally.

Largest Phase of Route 28 Work Begins

Aug 18, 2011

The estimated 60,000 motorists who use Route 28 between Pittsburgh and Millvale on any given day will have some additional challenges starting August 22 as PennDOT begins the next phase of construction on that roadway. PennDOT spokesman Jim Struzzi says the $36.4 million phase is the largest of the overall project.

Raja Plan: Modernize County Government

Aug 18, 2011

The Republican candidate for Allegheny County Executive announced his plan to trim spending at the County Courthouse today.

D. Raja said cutting departmental spending and avoiding reliance on one-time revenues would give the County a more realistic budget. He said the current administration's "over-optimistic" revenue projections have caused the County to borrow money and sell off its assets.

Raja said he would rather save money by cross-training County workers to fill multiple roles and setting performance benchmarks for departments and employees.

Project Pop-Up Aims to Revitalize Downtown

Aug 17, 2011

In efforts to promote a more active retail environment downtown the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership are collaborating to distribute grants to individuals and organizations to create "pop-up" projects downtown.

The pop-up projects will inhabit yet-to-be determined storefronts, making them more attractive to potential lessees while improving the vibrancy of the city. Fifteen vacant spots will be transformed and grants ranging from $1,500 to $10,000 will be distributed.

A major Marcellus Shale drilling company is challenging an Allegheny County municipality's decision to restrict drilling. Last month officials in South Fayette Township approved an ordinance that requires drillers to obtain a land operations permit for each well, and it creates buffers around schools, hospitals and certain types of businesses.

Visitors at Phipps Conservatory might not be able to hear the jackhammers, welders, or dump trucks in the background as they wander through the Tropical Forest Conservancy. But just outside, behind a makeshift screen of reeds, contractors are hard at work on something of a first for Pittsburgh.

When Pittsburgh kids show up for school this year, they'll get a packet of information letting them know how they can take advantage of the Comcast Internet Essentials Program. The program will discount the cost of broadband internet services to $9.95 for children whose families qualify for the National Free School Lunch Program. They'll also qualify to get a laptop for $149.95 and for free digital literacy training for children and adults.

Girls In the Juvenile Justice System

Aug 15, 2011

Earlier this month, Allegheny County released their annual Juvenile Probation report. It didn't look very different from reports from years past. Overall the number of juvenile arrests has remained steady, or even decreased. But the number of girls who are coming in has steadily increased. And they're coming in for the kinds of crimes boys have more often come in for—crimes like aggravated assault.

It raises the question, are girls the new boys? Should they be treated as boys are?

Bicyclists Gear Up for BikeFest

Aug 12, 2011

Whether it's a bike tour of some of the city's historic cemeteries or a ride that focuses on the architecture of Pittsburgh's churches, or even discovering the variety of urban trees while on a bike, they're all part of the 7th Annual BikeFest that gets underway today.

Situated on the turnpike about 14 miles southeast of Somerset, the Allegheny Mountain Tunnel is 70 years old and deteriorating. It causes congestion, sometimes backing up traffic for miles. Now, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission wants to see what can be done to revitalize or bypass it.

Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo said his agency has hired an engineering contractor to study the cost and feasibility of three options.

Ten Indicted in $4 Million Cocaine Operation

Aug 11, 2011

U.S. Attorney David Hickton announced today his office has indicted ten people in a large cocaine trafficking operation in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. Hickton said a coalition of several law enforcement agencies seized a tractor trailer containing $450,000 in cash and more than twenty kilograms of cocaine, worth about $4 million. He said the vehicle was found in Allegheny County's Plum Borough, on its way to Pittsburgh.

PA Dems: Pass Impact Fee ASAP

Aug 11, 2011

Democrats in the Pennsylvania Senate are renewing their calls for an impact fee on Marcellus Shale natural gas wells to be passed this fall.

Senator Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said he would support an impact fee measure that allows for job creation, but also helps to protect the environment from any negative effects of drilling.

City Drilling Ban Referendum Fails

Aug 10, 2011

A measure to ask Pittsburgh voters if Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling should be banned in the city seems to have finally failed.

The referendum bill was deemed invalid by the Allegheny County Law Department and County Elections Division, because it didn't make the August 9 deadline to add a question to the ballot this November.

Toomey Joins Federal Debt Panel

Aug 10, 2011

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) will be part of the twelve-member panel charged with writing a plan to reduce federal debt by more than $1 trillion.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell named Toomey, a former investment banker, to the congressional super-panel today. Toomey, a freshman Republican, said he is "very honored" to serve on the committee when it meets this fall.

"We need to get our spending under control," said Toomey, "and we need to do it in a way that will maximize economic growth."

Jobs Rally Held Downtown

Aug 10, 2011

Activists from several local unions urged Congress today to pass a job creation measure when it returns from its August recess.

A rally outside Democratic Senator Bob Casey's Pittsburgh office drew about 20 people, toting signs that decried the conservative Tea Party movement and called for investment to create more jobs in Pennsylvania.

Steffi Domike of the United Steelworkers said her union wants the federal government to pass another stimulus package to create jobs.

Civic Leadership class graduates

Aug 10, 2011

For the last month and a half twenty-two Pittsburgh high school students have been spending their Wednesday nights learning how the city works. Tonight those students will become the first graduates from the Mayor's Youth Civic Leadership Academy.

"Many of them were really struck by how little they knew about what local government is and what it does," said the Pittsburgh Chief Service Officer Rebecca Kottler-Wein. "I think one of the really exciting parts for the departments was feeling like they had an opportunity to share with the students what types of jobs are available."

Body Mounted Cameras Coming to The People

Aug 10, 2011

Motion-capture technology, used for movies like Avatar or Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, will someday be available to the general public. People will be able to record motion capture and will be able to feel physical sensations as they watch movies or play video games.

Batman Filming to Close Streets Downtown

Aug 9, 2011

Crews filming the third movie of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy have shot in Lawrenceville, Heinz Field, and other locations already, but they'll probably cause the most pressing traffic closures when they film Downtown from Tuesday night to Sunday.

Dawn Keezer of the Pittsburgh Film Office says several major routes, like Smithfield Street and Oliver Avenue, will close temporarily on various days during that time period. Sidewalks and curbsides will sometimes be off-limits as well.