|In his role of Chairman of the Sports & Exhibition Authority and the Senator representing the Hill District neighborhood in the City of Pittsburgh, Senator Fontana offered opening remarks at the ceremonial ribbon “connecting” event on Friday in the lower Hill District.
Lower Hill Infrastructure Project
I was proud to serve as master of ribbon cutting ceremonies on Friday as we marked the opening of the new connector streets in the city’s lower Hill District neighborhood. Reconstructing these streets (Element I of the project) that were once vibrant arteries to the Hill District will help spark a new wave of investment and development in the community and I was pleased to have played a role in acquiring financial support for this promising effort.
Element I of the Lower Hill Infrastructure Project includes a new Fullerton Street that connects Bedford Avenue to Centre Avenue, and a new portion of Wylie Avenue joining Fullerton Street to Crawford Street. During urban renewal of the 1950’s, construction crews tore out all of the streets on the 28-acre Civic Arena site. This infrastructure project is aimed at reconstructing those streets to provide modern, walkable streets with sidewalks to reconnect the Hill District to downtown Pittsburgh.
Element II roadway construction is now underway and will provide a new Logan Street connecting Bedford to Centre Avenue; Wylie Avenue continuing to the new Logan Street; and a new intersection at Logan Street and Centre Avenue. This work is expected to conclude next summer.
This progress would not have been possible without all partners and stakeholders working cooperatively. This includes state, federal, county, and city officials, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Lower Hill Working Group.
The new street grid creates mixed-use development parcels that are expected to include 606,000 square-feet of office space, over 254,000 square-feet of commercial space, a 150-room hotel, 1,191 residential units, and 2.8 acres of public green open space. There was a time when the Hill District was a cultural and entertainment hub. I’m confident this revitalization infrastructure work will open up this historic and scenic neighborhood to the kind of diverse economic investment that has helped downtown Pittsburgh flourish.
Autonomous Vehicle Legislation Update
When it comes to autonomous vehicles, Pittsburgh is an ideal testing location. The region’s geography of steep hills, hundreds of bridges, and urban roadways along with the diverse climate and various seasons we experience throughout the year makes it a perfect setting. Not to mention Carnegie Mellon’s expertise with its robotic lab that is cutting edge.
Being the vehicles of the near-future, legislation needed to be written to address the different aspects on how these cars operate compared to a traditional vehicle on the road. I wrote about my Senate Bill 1268 (SB 1268) in the June 7 edition of my News & Views. However, due to the lack of federal guidelines and the fact that very few states have rules governing autonomous vehicles, our working group was often met with questions and concerns we were unable to answer.
To our delight, in late September, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released guidelines that will provide an outline for state regulations like requiring companies manufacturing self-driving technology to provide documentation on how they are conforming with the government’s 15-point safety assessment. This should include how and where the autonomous vehicle is designed to function, what the vehicle will do if the self-driving feature fails, what will happen if the vehicle is in a crash, and what protections exist against hacking.
The guidelines are subject to a 60-day comment period with federal agencies taking responsibility for the software and technology of self-driving vehicles before the technology hits the open market. At the same time, states like ours will continue to conduct inspections, require companies, universities and others using self-driving cars to obtain state approval before testing, carry hefty insurance and liability policies and register and title the cars as autonomous vehicles, which is already the case under SB 1268.
Regardless of these federal guidelines, if Pennsylvania is going to continue to be a testing ground for autonomous vehicles, current state law needs to change to address the differences in how an operator can drive a traditional vehicle and create new policies for this fast-evolving technology. At this point, redrafting of SB 1268 is taking place to align and conform with federal guidelines. The various stakeholders have also been weighing in on a new version, including the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) who is looking towards the General Assembly to give it more flexibility in rule-making and grant them regulatory certainty. However, with limited session days left in this legislation year, it’s unlikely SB 1268 will become law over the next few months.
Voter Registration Deadline - TODAY
If you are voting in the November 8 General Election, you must be registered to vote by today!
You can register to vote online by visiting www.votespa.com. On that site you may also download and print a blank registration form which can be mailed to the Allegheny County Division of Elections as long as it is postmarked today. Completed registration forms can be mailed or delivered to:
542 Forbes Avenue, Suite 609
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-2913
For any questions, please call 412-350-4500.
Additionally, the Pennsylvania Department of State recently launched 2Vote, a new voter registration text messaging service. Eligible Pennsylvania citizens can text the word “PA” to “2Vote” (28683) on their smartphones. The user will receive a link that provides direct access to the online voter registration application, voter registration status, polling place locator, and link to contacts for county offices and the Department of State. The Department is launching this service as part of its Everyone votesPA education initiative that was introduced in March. The text message link also provides users with important dates and deadlines significant to the November 8 general election. Standard messaging rates may apply.
Absentee Ballot Deadline
I want to remind everyone that any voter who needs an absentee ballot for the Nov. 8 General Election must complete and return the application to the Allegheny County Division of Elections no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1. The Division of Elections is located in the County Office Building, 542 Forbes Avenue, Room 604 in downtown Pittsburgh. You can download and print an application by clicking here or you can pick one up at any of my district offices.
Anyone voting by absentee ballot will be required to provide a PA Driver’s License number, PennDOT ID number, or last four digits of your Social Security number. If you do not possess any of the aforementioned items, a copy of an acceptable ID must be provided with the application. For any questions related to registering to vote, please contact 412-350-4510 or visit www.votespa.com.
New Date for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
I want to again remind students and families that the U.S. Department of Education has moved up when the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be available online. The FAFSA became available on October 1 which gives students and their families more time to consider where to go to college and how to pay for it. The FAFSA is a tool that colleges and universities use to determine how much financial aid to offer students and whether those students are eligible for federal grants, student loans and other types of federal and state aid.
Not only is completing the FAFSA required to be considered for federal student aid, such as the Pell Grant or federal student loans, it’s also used to determine eligibility for many kinds of scholarships and grants, including the Pennsylvania State Grant Program.
As the Vice Chairman of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) Board of Directors, I can’t stress enough the importance of not overlooking the new October kickoff and not procrastinating as you could risk losing out to others who realize that some financial aid is offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
For information on the higher education financial aid process, schedules for upcoming FAFSA Completion Sessions, reminders of financial aid deadlines, and information pertaining to planning for higher education, students can visit www.PHEAA.org. A student can also call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.
Did You Know…
Did you know the Office of Federal Student Aid offers more than $150 billion each year in the form of grants, loans and work-study funds to help students pay for a post-secondary education?
Slot Machine Revenue Rises
Last week, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reported that revenue generated from slot machines in Pennsylvania increased more than two percent during the month of September compared to September 2015. Gross revenue from slot machines in September totaled more than $192 million compared with approximately $187.6 million in September 2015. Tax revenue generated from slot machines last month was over $102.5 million.
Slot machines are taxed at 55 percent in Pennsylvania and directed as follows: 34 percent for property tax reduction; 12 percent supporting the horse racing industry; five percent is placed in a state economic development fund; and two percent goes to local governments that host casinos.
The state’s gaming industry employs over 17,000 people and annually generates more than $1.4 billion in tax revenue from both slot machines and table games play. For more information on gaming in Pennsylvania and to read reports from the Gaming Control Board, please visit them online at www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
Volunteer Fire Company/Ambulance Grants
I want to remind volunteer fire companies and ambulance services that the Pennsylvania Office of the State Fire Commissioner (OSFC) has opened the online grant application process for the 2016-17 Fire Company, Emergency Medical Service Grant Program (FCEMSGP). The application period is open through October 21 at 4 p.m. No applications will be accepted after October 21.
All fire companies, emergency medical services and volunteer rescue squads are eligible to apply for grant funding. Eligible projects include: construction and/or renovation of the fire company’s or ambulance service’s facility; purchase or repair of fixtures and furnishings necessary to maintain or improve the capability of the company to provide fire, ambulance and rescue services; purchase or repair of firefighting, ambulance or rescue equipment; debt reduction associated with the facility or equipment; training and certification of members; or training and education materials regarding fire prevention for the general public.
Grant applications are available online by clicking here or by visiting www.osfc.pa.gov.
Trunk or Treat
The Salvation Army - Pittsburgh Temple, located at 1060 McNeilly Road, is hosting their inaugural Trunk or Treat event on Friday, Oct. 28. The free event runs from 7 – 8:30 p.m. and seeks to make the community aware of its presence and the several programs available for children, teens, and adults. Kids are welcome to dress up in their Halloween costumes and enjoy candy, food, games and more. For more information on the event or if you’re a business interested in participating please contact Tony at 412-207-2127, ext. 104.
Upcoming Bellevue Events
Everyone is invited to Bellevue to tour the beautiful homes and galleries, browse and dine in their vibrant shopping district, and discover the endless possibilities that Bellevue has to offer during their annual Bellevue Live Worship Shop House Tour. Bona Fide Bellevue is organizing this year’s Tour for Saturday, Oct. 29 from noon – 4 p.m. For more information on how to purchase tickets and for information on Bellevue’s Halloween Costume Parade, scheduled for 10 a.m. that morning, and other events scheduled that day in Bellevue, please visit www.bonafidebellevue.com/events.
In early autumn, in response to the shortening days and declining intensity of sunlight, leaves begin the processes leading up to their fall. The veins that carry fluids into and out of the leaf gradually close off as a layer of cells forms at the base of each leaf. These clogged veins trap sugars in the leaf and promote production of anthocyanins. Once this separation layer is complete and the connecting tissues are sealed off, the leaf is ready to fall.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Tuesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Northside (Mobile Office)
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Lawrenceville (Mobile Office)
279 Fisk Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Thursdays - 11 am - 4 pm