Federal cut to Port Authority will hurt; state shortfall would be worse

$2.9 million loss of U.S. transit funds pales beside Pa. fiscal picture

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Port Authority will suffer a $2.9 million annual funding cut as a result of the newly enacted federal transportation authorization law.

While that is bad news, it pales in comparison to what will happen if the state Legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett don't work out a long-term fix to Pennsylvania's transportation funding shortfall, transit agency CEO Steve Bland said last week.

"Our focus needs to be 991/2 percent on the state funding solution," he said.

The authority's Planning and Development Committee was briefed on the implications of the new federal law, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21, signed into law by President Barack Obama in July.

It replaced a law that expired in September 2009 and was extended numerous times by a gridlocked Congress. MAP-21 authorizes transportation programs through Sept. 30, 2014.

While it provides more predictability than the numerous short-term extensions, it cuts funding to regional transit agencies by $4.8 million, or 7.5 percent.

The Port Authority's cut will primarily impact its capital budget, which pays for such things as rehabilitation of infrastructure and new buses. But one program axed by Congress, Job Access/Reverse Commute, provided about $1 million annually that funded the 28X Airport Flyer service to Robinson Town Centre and Pittsburgh International Airport.

Mr. Bland said that doesn't mean the route will be abolished. But if the state fails to provide adequate funding for the agency as a whole, it and all other routes could face service reductions or elimination.

Mr. Corbett has been criticized by some for not acting on the August 2011 recommendations of his handpicked Transportation Funding Advisory Commission. The panel called for inflationary increases in some driver fees that haven't changed since 1997 and a lifting of an artificial cap on gasoline taxes paid by wholesalers to raise $2.5 billion in new funding for roads, bridges and transit.

The governor said last week that he would craft a transportation funding proposal and push for legislative approval early next year. He gave no details.

"The big issue is still at the state level," said Mr. Bland, whose agency narrowly averted a draconian 35 percent service reduction in September through an infusion of state and county funds and historic contract concessions from union employees.

"If the state issue isn't resolved, this [federal aid reduction] is not going to matter all that much," he said.

state - Transportation

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at www.post-gazette.com/Roundabout. Twitter: @pgtraffic.


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