Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

BRIEFS [Derived Headline]

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

BRIEFS [Derived Headline]

Article excerpt

TRANSIT BACKERS RALLY DOWNTOWN

A diverse coalition of transit advocates gathered outside the Wood Street subway station Downtown today to urge state lawmakers and Gov. Tom Corbett to provide adequate funding for public transportation.

Nearly 40 organizations, including religious, labor and business groups, signed a letter calling for passage of "stable, long-term state funding for transportation" with an emphasis on mass transit.

"Public transit benefits everyone, not just those who ride it. By getting more cars off the streets, mass transit reduces traffic and parking congestion, air pollution, and oil consumption," said the letter, prepared by the rally organizers, the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network.

Several attendees praised legislation introduced this week by state Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, that would raise an estimated $2.5 billion in new transportation funding by changing the way gasoline taxes are levied and increasing driver fees and fines. Mr. Rafferty has estimated that the bill would add $128 million in statewide public transit funding in the first year and $510 million by year five.

Steve Palonis, president of Local 85, Amalagamated Transit Union, which represents Port Authority workers, said it would enable the fiscally troubled agency to add transit service. Other officials, including Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Ken Zapinski, a vice president of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, said they were still analyzing the impact of the legislation on local transit.

"I'm very pleased Sen. Rafferty moved forward (with the bill)," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "The whole community's behind us. To be a vibrant region we've got to have adequate transit."

MAYORAL CANDIDATES MAKE PITCHES

Leading Pittsburgh mayoral candidates Bill Peduto and Jack Wagner made their pitches to a room full of real estate developers this morning, while separately announcing plans for improving public education.

Mr. Peduto unveiled a proposal to boost funding for preschool education, saying it would enhance the city's Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program for graduates of city schools.

Only 15 percent of Pittsburgh's 10,000 children between 1 and 5 years old are in preschool classes, the Point Breeze city councilman said, so by the time many get to kindergarten they are already behind.

Mr. Peduto said he is first working with early childhood education advocates to build support for the proposal and then will seek funding for it through federal and state grants and foundation and corporate giving.

Mr. Wagner's campaign said it will concentrate on expanding student programs such as internships, summer employment and after- school activities, with a special emphasis on math and science programs.

The former state auditor general said he was uniquely positioned to better education through his audits of school institutions statewide and his contacts in Harrisburg and Washington, D. …

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