The Future of Transportation in our Region

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Hotline, Fall 1999

How our region spends federal transportation dollars ultimately affects air quality, land use and our quality of life. The Federal Government requires local planning agencies to determine which projects get federal transportation dollars, so every two years Southwestern PA’s local planning agency, SPC (formerly known as SPRPC), makes a recommendation for our eight-county region (Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Greene, Indiana, Washington and Westmoreland). Much hangs in the balance, for if a project is not on the list, it is not eligible for federal funding.

During August and September, SPC held public hearings to find out which projects the counties want to build. On October 29, SPC will make it’s recommendation for project years 2001 to 2004. There’s only $1.6 billion available for roads and bridges and $700 million for public transit projects. This may sound like a lot, but all the money could have been used up by those who testified at only one hearing — Allegheny County’s.

The Allegheny County hearing was held on September 15 and more than 40 people testified. Many spoke in favor of public transit projects — a clear win for clean air. Others petitioned on behalf of relatively small road and bridge projects. However, two multi-billion dollar projects of the PA Turnpike Commission, the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway, were promoted by public officials, yet condemned by citizens. These projects have gained national notoriety in “The Road to Ruin,” a report* on the 50 most wasteful roads in America, because both are of questionable merit, under-funded and opposed by the local citizens.

What projects will SPC support? Will they recommend fixing our existing roads and bridges and building better transit? Or will they opt for expensive new roads which will promote development of forest and farmland (sprawl) and increase vehicle miles, resulting in more pollution? Watch for news of SPC’s recommendation. The decisions they make in 1999 will affect all of us for decades to come.

*Note: “The 1999 Road to Ruin” is published by Friends Of The Earth and Taxpayers For Common Sense. Their report on the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway can be found on the Web at

by Kate St. John, GASP Member