One need not like projected President-elect Joe Biden or the incoming chief executive’s choice for U.S. transportation secretary to recognize a possible major opportunity for Pennsylvania, including this part of the commonwealth.
If Biden is successful in proceeding with his $2 trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, much of it related to transportation, the Southern Alleghenies region should be determined to outstretch its proverbial hand for a meaningful share of what money becomes available.
Whatever infrastructure money Pennsylvania receives would have to be funneled through the state, but leaders here should already be brainstorming possible worthy projects for serious consideration, including preparing arguments for justifying those proposals.
Even if Biden’s plan ends up being less than the $2 trillion on which he campaigned, this region nonetheless should have the information in hand to demonstrate how whatever federal money comes here would be put to exemplary use.
President Donald Trump proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure initiative, but that idea never materialized. Now it is too late for Trump to assemble anything of the scope.
Therefore, it presumably will fall into the laps of Biden, his choice for transportation secretary, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and other infrastructure-oriented officials to succeed where Trump did not.
Even though the Southern Alleghenies region was not a great supporter of the Biden candidacy, that does not disqualify it from expecting to be remembered when infrastructure dollars are doled out.
Biden has promised to work on behalf of all of the nation. Soon will come his opportunity to prove that.
It is important to acknowledge that Democrat Biden’s infrastructure initiative will deserve scrutiny by Republican as well as Democratic lawmakers, to justify whatever spending decisions are made. But no attempt should be made to destroy them simply on partisan grounds.
Meanwhile, getting Pennsylvania’s proverbial ducks in a row — its project priorities — needs to ramp up to high gear as quickly as possible.
Pennsylvania’s two U.S. senators, Democrat Robert Casey and Republican Pat Toomey, need to be involved in infrastructure discussions, going forward, as well as members of Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration and the Republican-controlled state Senate and House.
Get out your Pennsylvania highway map and focus on the six-county Southern Alleghenies region — Blair, Bedford, Cambria, Somerset, Huntingdon and Fulton counties — and consider how the region could benefit if, for example, the final leg of Route 219’s long-awaited connection to Interstate 68 in northern Maryland were in place, if Route 220 south of Bedford were upgraded to better accommodate the significant volume of commercial truck traffic that uses it, if a greatly improved/upgraded/rebuilt Route 22 were extended east from the Hollidaysburg area.
Then there are the bridges still in need of repair or reconstruction, as well as water and sanitary sewer systems.
If Biden’s proposal gets the green light — and Pennsylvania should be out front urging that it does — the state, bolstered in part by the Southern Alleghenies region, should be ready with worthy proposals in hand.
This is a potential opportunity that, if it materializes, must not be botched, especially on the basis of unpreparedness.
- Altoona Mirror