Senator Fontana speaks at the Peoples Gas Holiday Market Grand Opening Ceremony on Saturday, November 23rd at Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh. The 2nd annual Holiday Market, a product of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, is open daily through December 23rd and features more than 20 vendors of handcrafted, international and Pittsburgh-themed gifts. As a member of the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County, Senator Fontana supported funding from the Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund used to construct a community stage that will be programmed every day and evening with live, local and ethnic entertainment. Senator Fontana is joined on the stage with Brenda Waters (KDKA TV), Tim Inglis (President & Treasurer of the Colcom Foundation), Rich Fitzgerald (Allegheny County Executive), Jon Burnett (KDKA TV) and Jeremy Waldrup ( President & CEO of Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership). The event also featured an appearance from Calum Worthy, star of the Disney Channel’s “Austin & Ally”as well as a visit from Santa and comments from Peoples Gas CEO Morgan O’Brien. For more information on the Holiday Market, please visit www.downtownpittsburgh.com.
Bi-Partisan Comprehensive Transportation Plan
After months of negotiations and much anticipation, the General Assembly has passed a $2.4 billion comprehensive transportation funding package. The plan would raise billions of dollars over the next five years with our region’s mass transit system, Port Authority of Allegheny County, splitting 90 percent of the $500 million mass transit allocation. Most importantly, Act 89 (HB 1060) will now guarantee our citizens and visitors of the state with safe local roads, highways, bridges and other means to get around the Commonwealth. Passage of a comprehensive transportation package was essential because it will now permit and expedite critical repair of our infrastructure thus making our roadways safer sooner.
Pennsylvania has the third-largest numbers of bridges in the nation. At the same time, the Commonwealth leads the country in the number of bridges classified as “structurally deficient.” Because of this designation, many of these infrastructures have been closed or weight restrictions have been put in place over the past few months due to safety concerns. With Pittsburgh being the “city of bridges,” it is especially vital for our region to make sure these infrastructures are not dangerous for both vehicles and pedestrians to travel. Passage of Act 89 (HB 1060) guarantees that all bridges will no longer just receive temporary patchwork and instead a long term, sustainable solution these bridges so desperately need.
Specifically, roads and bridges will see about $1.8 billion under the transportation plan with $86 million going towards Pennsylvania Turnpike projects, $30 million for repair of dirt and gravel roads and $237 million for local governments’ road maintenance programs. In addition, the bill creates a $144 million annual funding stream for "multi-modal" projects including everything from airports and railroads to bike paths or town-center pedestrian safety improvements. Close to home, this plan will infuse millions of dollars into numerous projects within the 42nd Senatorial District.
Another vital aspect of the transportation plan is that this influx of funding will provide a much needed economic stimulus for Pennsylvania. As projects get underway, companies will need to employ well qualified people in these good paying jobs. At the same time, these workers will be investing in the local communities by purchasing materials and supplies for the projects as well as utilizing spin-off industries to provide for everyday needs. It has been estimated that the infusion of billions of dollars will create 50,000 new jobs and retain 12,000 more. The stimulus would also ease the burden on municipalities to fix local transportation infrastructure which leaves more money to be spent on other essential projects while at the same time preventing taxes from increasing.
Another major win from this funding package is that for the first time, mass transit, will see a dedicated funding stream with some growth potential in the future. Act 89 (HB 1060) prevents transit jobs from being cut and routes being reduced or eliminated altogether. Furthermore, Allegheny County will now be eligible for funding for the Persons with Disabilities (PwD) Program, which provides reduced-fare shared-ride transit service for individuals who have a disability and are between the ages of 18 and 64 by up to 85 percent. Allegheny County is the only county in the Commonwealth that does not receive PwD funding because when the program was instituted, the Port Authority was already providing a service similar to PwD. Due to a decline in funding, the Persons with Disabilities Program has been in jeopardy in our region for several years now.
Act 89 (HB 1060) passed the Senate overwhelmingly by a vote of 43-7. Pennsylvania will now be able to not only fix existing infrastructure but also create and improve new transportation networks and programs. We owe it to everyone traveling through Pennsylvania – residents and visitors alike – to provide a safe, functional transportation infrastructure.
Did You Know…
Did you know that nearly 25 percent of Pennsylvania’s bridges have been deemed structurally deficient and that the average age of a bridge in Pennsylvania is 50 years old?
Upcoming PHEAA Job Fair
In last week's edition of my News & Views I announced the opening of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) Customer Service Center in Green Tree. I want to remind constituents that PHEAA is hosting another job recruitment event for individuals interested in working at the new Center.
The next recruitment event is scheduled for December 11th from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Allegheny County Career Link Center, located on the 22nd Floor at 425 6th Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. If you are interested in working in this new facility as a call center representative, I encourage you to attend this recruitment event. You may also visit www.pheaa.org/jobs to learn more about available positions. These are sustainable jobs with access to employment benefits.
PHEAA expects to train an average of 42 new employees every eight weeks until it reaches the new facility’s 150-person capacity. Employees receive a paid eight-week training program prior to working directly with student loan borrowers to help them manage their student loan debt successfully.
As Vice-Chair of PHEAA’s Board of Directors I am appreciative of the long-term investment PHEAA is making in our community. With the help of skilled workers from right here in western Pennsylvania, the new Customer Service Center in Green Tree will help PHEAA continue to provide the best possible customer service to millions of student loan borrowers throughout the region, the Commonwealth and the nation.
All Senate offices will be closed on Thursday, November 28th and Friday, November 29th in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. My offices will re-open as scheduled on Monday, December 2nd. I wish everyone a very happy and safe Thanksgiving!
Hanukkah begins tomorrow evening, November 27th and runs through December 5th. I wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah and best wishes during the Festival of Lights.
Table Games Revenue Rises
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced last week that revenue generated from table games play at the state’s 12 casinos increased by 9.5 percent in October compared with October 2012. Total revenue generated from table games in October was more than $60.6 million and more than $8.6 million in tax revenue was generated. Locally, the Rivers Casino generated more than $5.8 million in revenue from table games in October, an increase of more than 16 percent from last October.
Combined with figures on slot machine revenue, overall gross gaming revenue from both table games and slots increased by 2.4 percent in October compared with October 2012. Revenue from all casino gaming in Pennsylvania was nearly $250 million in October.
Pennsylvania’s casinos employ over 16,000 people, and collectively generate an average of $4 million per day in tax revenue. A portion of that money is used for property tax reduction to all Pennsylvania homeowners, provides funds to the Commonwealth’s horse racing industry, fire companies, a statewide water and sewer project grant program, and the state’s General Fund as well as establishing a stream of tax revenue to local governments that host casinos for community projects.
Brookline Celebrating the Season
The Brookline Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring, Brookline Celebrating the Season, on Saturday, November 30th. This event features several family-friendly activities. The CLP-Brookline branch will host story time and crafts from 2 – 4 p.m. Caroling and a live nativity will take place at Cannon Park beginning at 5 p.m. and children can have pictures taken with Santa at Meslissa Distel Photograph from 3 – 5p.m. and again from 6 – 7 p.m. There will also be a Holiday Social at Cannon Coffee, beginning at 6 p.m. For more information on the day’s activities, please contact the Chamber at 412-563-0759.
Low Cost Holiday Event
The Brown Chapel Heir Force will present A Shepherds Story at the New Hazlett Theater on December 12th beginning at 7 p.m. The New Hazlett Theater is located at 6 Allegheny Square on Pittsburgh’s North Side. The event will include performances by vocalists and dancers and will include live animals, original music and acting and will also feature holiday shopping booths and more. For more information or to purchase tickets, please contact Russell Bynum at 412-471-4332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Green Tree Light Up Night
Green Tree Borough is hosting their annual Light Up Night, on December 7th from 5 – 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building. Refreshments and free food will be provided and the evening’s events will include holiday entertainment, ice carvings and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus! For more information please contact Green Tree Borough at 412-921-1110.
Christmas 4 Families
Coraopolis Youth Creations is accepting donated gifts to help financially struggling parents provide for their children during the holidays. The program, Christmas 4 Families, is available to eligible parents who live in the Coraopolis area. Christmas 4 Families is scheduled for December 14th from noon – 3 p.m. at the Vance Avenue Community Church, located at 1101 Vance Avenue in Coraopolis. To participate, interested participants must pre-register no later than December 8th. If you are interested in donating new gifts for infants, children and teens, or if you would like to pre-register, please contact Lucinda Wade at 412-329-8855 or email@example.com.
Brookline Business Feature
This week’s featured Brookline business is No Name Coffee Shop, located at 536 Brookline Boulevard. No Name Coffee Shop serves its popular breakfast dishes all day and also has a lunch menu. Patrons can dine in or order take-out. No Name Coffee Shop has been serving Brookline and surrounding communities for 15 years. They are open from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Sunday. Please remember to support local merchants during the Brookline Boulevard Streetscape Project and remember:
Brookline is open for business!
It was 150 years ago last Tuesday, November 19th, when President Lincoln gave his famous “Gettysburg Address” at a dedication ceremony at the Gettysburg National Cemetery. To this day, President Lincoln’s speech, which lasted under two minutes, is recognized as one of the most important in American history. What many don’t know is that Lincoln was not intended to be the main speaker. That honor went to Edward Everett, a former Secretary of State and U.S. Senator, who addressed the crowd prior to Lincoln and spoke for two hours. The day after the speeches, Everett, wrote the following in a letter to President Lincoln: "I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
524 Pine Hollow Rd
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216