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Transit Law Sorely Needed to Drive State’s Economy

By LVEDC Staff on December 2, 2013

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following column written by LVEDC’s CEO and President Don Cunningham first appeared in the Dec. 2 issue of Lehigh Valley Business.

As the week of Thanksgiving approached this year, the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Governor Tom Corbett gave those focused on growing our economy something for which to be thankful.

While many Pennsylvanians were purchasing food for their Thanksgiving dinners from grocery store shelves, Gov. Corbett was signing into law a landmark piece of legislation that will provide $2.3 billion in new transportation funding in the Commonwealth.

This was legislation that Lehigh Valley business and economic development organizations, like the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., supported and lobbied for on behalf of businesses and economic growth initiatives. A new transportation act in Pennsylvania was a long time in the making and couldn’t have come soon enough.

Many are aware of the aging infrastructure of roads and bridges in our state and the dire need for maintenance and upgrades but, in addition, areas like Lehigh, Northampton and Berks counties need new roads and transportation support to continue to grow our economy and add jobs.

In previous columns (for Lehigh Valley Business), I’ve written about the history of economic growth in the United States following first the rivers, then the canals, then the railroads and finally the highways. Where two rivers met, or a canal lock, a railroad station or an interchange was put in place that’s where new towns and businesses grew. It is no different today.

The reuse of former industrial lands in our cities and boroughs or the development of new commercial and industrial parks in outlying areas continue to require improved road and rail access. While the new law will allow for funding of many road and bridge projects, it also creates a new, special fund to be known as the Multimodal Transportation Fund, which will provide grant funding for rail freight, rail passenger service, aviation, ports and waterways, road and bridge projects, and bicycle and pedestrian related projects.

By passing this legislation, a major initiative of Gov. Corbett, Pennsylvania won’t have to borrow money to finance long-term projects that will ultimately enhance transportation infrastructure and make the Commonwealth even more appealing for economic development.

While many elected officials often speak of supporting infrastructure improvements, the transportation act was difficult to pass because not as many officials were willing to vote for the funding to pay for it. The new law calls for an increase in the wholesale gasoline tax.

Three Lehigh Valley legislators, however, were champions of the transportation act and voted to support its passage: State Sen. Pat Browne (R-16th) and State Sen. Bob Mensch (R-24th) and State Rep. Michael Schlossberg (D-132nd). The history of economic growth in Pennsylvania and the United States has taken acts of political courage to fund what Abraham Lincoln called “internal improvements.”

New York Gov. DeWitt Clinton in the early 1800s battled for a decade to gather the support and funding for the Erie Canal, which turned New York City and the New York Harbor into the economic capital of the world in the 19th Century. Lincoln and his fellow Republicans and Whigs like Henry Clay in the later part of the century fought to fund canals, railroads and roadway across the middle of America.

Without the vision and action of leaders to propose and fund the transit networks that improve our communities, make our roads safer and create the opportunity to grow businesses and create jobs, America would not have the largest economy in the world.

Next time that you see Sen. Browne, Sen. Mensch, Rep. Schlossberg or Gov. Corbett let them know that you appreciate their vision and support.

New Markets Tax Credit event set for December 10th

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation is pleased to invite you to a three-part New Markets Tax Credit forum scheduled for 7:30 through noon on December 10th at th[...]

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