Scarnati plans legislation to overhaul Port Authority

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State Sen. Joe Scarnati launched a scathing attack on Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in a press release announcing that he plans to introduce legislation that would overhaul the Port Authority

Mr. Scarnati, R-Jefferson, said his plan would grant appointing authority for the board to an array of state and local officials including the governor, legislative leaders, Allegheny County Council and the mayor of Pittsburgh. Mr. Fitzgerald, who now appoints all full-voting members, would have a single appointment under Mr. Scarnati's plan.

"The Port Authority of Allegheny County has been a significant strain on state and local taxpayers for far too long and it is time the legislature address the issue," Mr. Scarnati said.

"Given the recent fiasco surrounding the dismissal of the former CEO, it is clear that the policy being set by the County Executive is not moving the Port Authority in the right direction," Mr. Scarnati continued. "Further, the raises which were granted to non-union employees, then rescinded the very next day, are just another example of the urgent need for a change in leadership at the Port Authority."

Mr. Scarnati said the state's largest mass transit system, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), is governed by a similarly structured board.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald released a statement in response.

"While we certainly appreciate the Senator from Jefferson County's interest in the operations of the Port Authority of Allegheny County, there are many inaccuracies in his statement. I, along with any members of the County delegation, would be happy to sit down with him and talk about the Authority's achievements over the past few years related to service efficiency, addressing of legacy costs, increased revenues and economic development opportunities if he would like a better understanding of the agency.

"That being said, I have long been an advocate for a regional transit, multi-county approach to mass transit, similar to that of the SEPTA system. It is something that I advocated for and spoke about through my campaign, and have also addressed numerous times in my first 15 months in office. I have traveled to all of the surrounding counties to begin that conversation with the commissioners, and was pleased to see it included in the governor's budget address and transportation proposal. A SEPTA system, if you will, would clearly require a new, reconstituted board that includes representation from every county and agency that would be involved in that regional system."

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