Public Participation an Issue in Transportation Spending Decisions
Hotline, Fall 2001
by Phyllis Armstrong, Co-Chair, Allegheny County Participation Panel
The following statement was given to the Public Participation Panel which takes testimony on behalf of the State Transportation Committee and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission:
In 1996 the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration issued a manual to promote public involvement in transportation decision making. The administrators were concerned that people were not receiving opportunities to shape transportation projects. The manual suggested various means to reach out and involve citizens. Perhaps this effort resulted in the enlargement of the Allegheny County Public Participation Panel and my membership on the panel. In the two plus years I have been a member, I’ve learned that the funding received from the federal government is sufficient to pay for the repair and upkeep of the region’s federal highways and leaves about 20% left over for new projects. I know that the demand for new roads, public transportation, and bikeways greatly exceeds this amount of funding.
As co-chair of the Allegheny County Participation Panel, I understand my assignment is to hear proposals for new projects and, with members of the panel, to prioritize the requests and present a report to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission and the State Transportation Committee.
The process devised to involve the public in the transportation planning process is subverted in the proposal that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enter into a joint effort with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to allocate $106.6 million each year for twenty years to implement the financing of the Mon Valley/Fayette Expressway and the Findlay connector of the Southern Beltway.
As a member of the League of Women Voters serving on the Public Participation Panel, I must object to the above proposal by the Mon Valley/Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway Alliance. Commitment to fund any new highway must be carefully considered in public. The proposal to arbitrarily set aside a large amount of federal highway funding for many years to be used for new highway construction must be considered carefully in light of the need for ongoing upkeep of the present system and multiple requests for new construction. This proposal should follow the full planning process and include ample time for public notice and comment.