The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


November 1, 2013

Barry Schoch | Imperative to act on transportation bill

JOHNSTOWN — The safety and economic vitality of the Johnstown-Cambria County region depends on an efficient transportation system – one that connects people with jobs, schools, loved ones and that gets the region’s products to market.

That’s a core responsibility of government: A transportation system that allows people to travel where they want, when they want and how they want.

Nobody could have missed that message on Thursday when Gov. Tom Corbett visited the newly expanded Environmental Tank and Container plant in Johnstown’s Coopersdale section and held up pieces of the Hickory Street Bridge – pieces that had fallen and flaked off the structure.

Safe and reliable transportation isn’t simply a matter of personal convenience. It’s about our livelihoods, global competitiveness and quality of life.

That’s why Corbett is working hard to deliver a common sense transportation plan that will bring better roads and reliable public transportation to the Johnstown region – and the entire commonwealth.

Pennsylvania has a well-documented transportation funding dilemma that has been decades in the making. In past decades, the state has done a patchwork job with available funds simply to keep the transportation network functional. But in an expanding global market, at a time that our economic recovery is in the balance, we need to do better than “functional.” We need a world-class system.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has an opportunity to enact legislation to significantly improve Pennsylvania’s transportation system. The governor will sign a comprehensive transportation plan. We need a multimodal solution, similar to the one the governor proposed this year, to grow and enhance transportation for all Pennsylvanians.

A comprehensive plan will allow the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to advance a number of badly needed road and bridge projects, including improvements to the Route 56 corridor east of Johnstown and the routes 219-36 corridor in northern Cambria County.

Those are on top of the nuts-and-bolts improvements that don’t grab headlines but are necessary if the road and bridge system is to remain in good repair. This kind of work includes culvert repairs, bridge repairs and repairs to areas prone to slides.

More resources allow PennDOT to dig deeper into the backlog.

CamTran, the region’s transit agency, needs state help to finish a new $21 million administration and maintenance facility. Enacting a transportation funding plan could provide capital funds to assist with this project.

Corbett has been crisscrossing the state advocating action, but it is critical that the state House acts now, in a bipartisan way.

The Johnstown region is fortunate to have a House member such as Bryan Barbin, who comes from a family with a long history of public service and civic engagement. We hope citizens will assure him that his support of this bill speaks to the state’s long tradition of placing policy first when it comes to helping the Johnstown region.

Barry Schoch, a professional engineer, is Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation.

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