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COMMENTARY: ALLYSON SCHWARTZ Put Pa. transit plan in high gear


October 19. 2013 2:36AM


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When it comes to transportation and infrastructure, the leadership we have in Harrisburg simply is not getting the job done.


They not only have failed to maintain our roads, bridges and highways, but also have failed to even offer a vision for the infrastructure essential to future economic growth in Pennsylvania.


We need a long-term infrastructure vision for the commonwealth. For example, bringing passenger rail service to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area could bring economic growth to Northeastern Pennsylvania for decades to come.


But unfortunately, Harrisburg hasn’t stepped up to the plate to maintain our infrastructure.


The American Society of Civil Engineers’ latest report card on Pennsylvania gave the state’s roads and transit a “D-.” Nearly 25 percent of Pennsylvania’s bridges are considered “structurally deficient” and 19 percent “functionally obsolete.”


In Luzerne County, the state Route 309 bridge over Bow Creek is one of the bridges on the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s list of newly weight-restricted structures. With the bridge’s average daily traffic of nearly 13,000 vehicles, the region can hardly afford to have a structure like this running at anything less than full capacity.


The problems are too big for small solutions; we need a new innovative approach.


Yes, we need to fix these highways – but now is the time for transformative action.


Our strength in the last century came from the fact that we embraced innovation and believed we could do big things. We knew we had to invest in education and grow the middle class. And, entrepreneurs, suppliers and builders used great imagination and confidence to redefine our own transit infrastructure.


We were leaders in steel, railroads and regional rail. We built ports, airports, highways and bridges to move people and products for Pennsylvania and for the nation. This bedrock gave us the tools to design and construct transportation networks that marveled the world.


We have let it crumble to the point where it is costing us time, money and energy while putting Pennsylvanians at risk.


We must maintain our roads, our bridges and infrastructure, but that isn’t enough anymore.


We need a governor determined to think bigger.


As a former member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have been committed to building stronger infrastructure for years. In fact, I have:


• Secured millions in TIGER grants back to our commonwealth for transportation infrastructure investment.


• Delivered millions to enable Amtrak and SEPTA to redesign and rebuild train stations, revitalizing neighborhoods and commercial corridors with transit-oriented development.


• Brought home millions to transform greenways and riverfronts.


I have even introduced a bi-partisan plan to utilize public-private partnerships to invest nearly a billion dollars in infrastructure for our commonwealth.


As governor, I would launch Build PA, a new statewide infrastructure bank to support game-changing infrastructure that puts thousands of people to work and lays the groundwork for growth in the decades to come. Build PA will be capitalized over time in profit from my proposed moderate, 5-percent severance tax on natural gas production and will leverage federal, state and private dollars to maximize our investment.


It will offer crucial financing to start, accelerate or expand critical infrastructure projects such as bringing passenger rail to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area to connect the region to the northeastern corridor. Bringing passenger rail to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area could economically revitalize the community by bringing new industry and new jobs to the region.


This project is only one example of how we can transform communities across Pennsylvania with key infrastructure. But we can’t do it without the leadership in Harrisburg committed to thinking bigger. All across Pennsylvania, business leaders, community leaders and local elected officials tell me how disappointed they are that Harrisburg can’t think big and can’t solve problems.


I believe we can and must do better. We can create “One Pennsylvania” that focuses on a long-term transportation and infrastructure strategy that harnesses the cooperation, creativity and resources of the private sector and all levels of government.


We just need the leadership in Harrisburg to make it a reality.




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