Smart Growth conference in Pittsburgh focuses on transportation, green infrastructure and urban redevelopment financing

Spending plan needed for transit, roads and bridges

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This week's 12th annual Southwestern Pennsylvania Smart Growth Conference will focus on three issues its organizers call "make or break" for the region: transportation funding, green infrastructure and urban redevelopment financing.

Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch will be a featured speaker at the event, scheduled for 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

The General Assembly and Gov. Tom Corbett are expected to take up transportation funding in the coming session. Funding cutbacks and shortfalls have caused a decline in road quality across the state and threaten to arrest progress in repairing structurally deficient bridges.

Public transit systems, including the Port Authority of Allegheny County, have struggled financially and been forced to raise fares and reduce service.

The latest update of the state's 12-year transportation plan calls for $41.6 billion in spending, which is down $26.3 billion, or nearly 40 percent, from the plan adopted four years ago. In the 10-county southwestern Pennsylvania region, a four-year spending plan that took effect in October anticipates a 32 percent reduction for highways and bridges compared with the plan adopted in 2008.

The goal of the conference, hosted by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Local Government Academy and Sustainable Pittsburgh, is to bring business and government leaders together for discussions on the key issues.

"For our region to take advantage of the economic, environmental and quality-of-life transformation we've experienced over the last 30 years, we must have globally competitive infrastructure above and below ground," said Dennis Yablonsky, Allegheny Conference CEO. "Working together through public-private partnerships is the way to make investment in infrastructure and in stronger communities happen."

In addition to Mr. Schoch, attendees who are scheduled to speak or participate in panel discussions include Steve Bland, Port Authority CEO; Joe Massaro III, president of Massaro Corp.; Allison Robinson, director of environmental initiatives for UPMC; Alex Sciulli, executive vice president at Highmark; and several municipal appointed and elected officials.

Event registration begins at 7:30 a.m. The admission fee is $45; members of Sustainable Pittsburgh, the Allegheny Conference, students and elected and appointed officials get a $5 discount. Lunch is included. A full agenda and more information are available at www.sustainablepittsburgh.org.

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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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