McKeesport, March 6, 2013 – Adequate funding for mass transit and the Mon-Fayette Expressway must be priorities in the transportation package being developed by the Corbett administration and lawmakers, state Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) said today.

Brewster made his comments following the Senate Appropriations budget hearing on transportation today in Harrisburg.

“We must find real dollars to build roads, bridges and pay for mass transit because these are important to our economy and job creation,” Brewster said. “Finding dollars to complete work on the Mon-Fayette and ensuring that our mass transit systems are supported must be a focus of the funding package.”

As a part of the governor’s budget address, Gov. Tom Corbett called for a $1.8 billion plan that is funded predominantly by lifting the cap on the Oil Franchise Tax. The governor’s plan would provide about half of the annual financing that his own blue-ribbon transportation financing commission recommended in August 2011.

“Investing in transportation is not only a smart choice it results in immediate job creation,” Brewster said. “Investing in mass transit sparks local economies, relieves traffic congestion and is good for the environment.

Brewster noted that at the budget hearing today the Penndot secretary said that for every $1 billion invested in highway and bridge work 25,000 jobs are created.

Many lawmakers have been leery of the relatively modest plan that the governor has proposed and have called for a far more aggressive approach that would enable key projects such as the Mon-Fayette to be funded.

“Opening access to the Mon Valley is critical to our region’s continued development,” Brewster said. “We have to move beyond our old economic model and realize that to spur development and speed revitalization we have to have quality road access to sites in the valley and near the river.”

By rough estimates, two-thirds of the Mon-Fayette and Southern Beltway system have been completed. According to reports, the last piece of the Mon-Fayette from Jefferson to Pittsburgh is estimated to cost at least $4 billion.

The governor’s plan would phase in the lifting of the Oil Franchise tax cap over five years. According to the proposal, lifting the cap would make $550 million available in 2013-14 – and eventually $1.8 billion.

The proposal calls for $1.2 billion of these funds to be spent on roads and bridges, $250 for mass transit, $200 million for local roads, $80 million for intermodal transportation such as rail and air and another $85 million to pay for slip ramp construction.

Brewster said he expected vigorous debate about the details of the transportation plan when the General Assembly returns to voting session following the conclusion of budget hearings. He said it is critical that the cost of the plan and the distribution of the proceeds of any new revenue be equitable.

“We have to make sure that there the package be large enough to cover all transportation priorities without burdening motorists or bringing our economic recovery to a screeching halt,” Brewster said. “The plan must be balanced, funded at a reasonable cost, be responsible and responsive to the needs of all taxpayers.”

The Senate returns to session next week.


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