Letter to the Editor
Thursday, March 9, 2000
A few weeks ago, I held a meeting with several local community leaders to discuss issues of importance to Fayette County residents.
Specifically, we spoke of the Mon-Fayette Expressway and the positive economic impact that it will have on the community for many years to come. Some of the comments I made during that meeting have been misrepresented by people looking to make politcal points and I would like to take this opportunity to clarify my position on the construction of the Fayette County portion of the Mon-Fayette Expressway.
I support the entire Mon-Fayette Expressway, period. I always have and always will. My support has been unqualified in the past as it is now.
I have worked with Senator Specter for the increased funding for Pennsylvania that has taken this project from a dream to a reality.
To suggest otherwise ignores my record of support for this project as a congressman from the 18th District. During that tenure, I fought against vocal opposition in parts of my district for the building of the leg from I-70 to Jefferson Borough that is now under construction.
But during that time, I expressed concern about building a highway to nowhere that will not benefit economic development in the Mon Valley.
We know from our experience in Southwestern Pennsylvania, as well as other cities around the country, that economic growth emanates from the city. Pittsburgh is the heart of the region's economy.
Building an artery without connecting it to the heart will not increase the flow of economic life to Fayette or any other county in the corridor, I pled with the supporters then, as I did again recently, to redouble their efforts to build this critical 51-to-Pittsburgh segment, not to benefit Pittsburgh or Allegheny County, but to benefit the entire Mon Valley. Without question, this segment of highway will have more economic benefit for Fayette County and the entire region than all the other segments combined.
That was the point of my discussion with the Mon Valley Progress Council last month.
I have not and I will not waiver in my support for any segment of the expressway project, but we must not lose focus that without 51-to-Pittsburgh, the Mon-Fayette Expressway will not be the catalyst for growth that Fayette County and the entire Mon Valley desperately needs and justly deserves.
I look forward to continuing to work with responsible leaders of the community on this and other important economic development projects in Fayette County.
Rick Santorum United States senator R-Pennsylvania
Guest Commentary: Joe Kirk
Sunday, March 5, 2000
The development of the entire Mon Valley/Fayette Expressway and ultimately the Southern Beltway has been the long-term objective of the Mon Valley Progress Council. The Progress Council is proud of its decades of effort to advance the entire 65-mile expressway project.
For any group or individual to claim otherwise, as Mr. (Kris) Moser did in a Feb. 27 guest editorial, is beyond absurd. The fact that over half of the expressway will be completed by the end of 2001 speaks well for our efforts as well as the leadership of area county, state and federal elected officials.
If Mr. Moser is contending to represent the interest of the expressway project he should start by checking his facts and then offer a public apology to the organization I represent. I take personal offense at his gross misrepresentations and the tone of his article.
Let's start with the widely reported Feb. 18 meeting of the Mon Valley Progress Council and U.S. Senator Rick Santorum.
The meeting included a showing of a video on the Mon Valley/Fayette Expressway commissioned by the Mon Valley Progress Council. The video describes progress on the entire project and regional unity - yes, Mr. Moser, unity - on a financing plan called "Plan H" to complete the entire expressway.
Plan H (for Highways), developed by the Mon Valley Progress Council, in concert with the Mon-Fayette Expressway Association, calls for the committment of $106 million per year in federal transportation funds to support bonds for completion of Brownsville-to-Uniontown, Route 51-to-Pittsburgh and the Findlay Connector of the Southern Beltway.
The order of completion would be based on when all pre-construction and land acquisiton is completed for the remaining sections of the expressway as well as the Findlay Connector of the Southern Beltway.
Following the viewing of the tape, Sen. Santorum raised concerns regarding the cost of Plan H. He then offered the idea that the Route 51 portion be constructed first.
An unreported fact on the meeting was Sen. Santorum's positon that the Brownsville to Uniontown section be completed with the toll proceeds from the PA Route 51 to Pittsburgh project.
Also unreported, was that I, along with the president of the Mon Valley Progress Council Frank Irey, stated that the region was behind Plan H, and it was a sound investment to address economic conditions throughout the industrial corridor of southwestern Pennsylvania.
Let me emphasize the point that both Plan H and Sen. Santorum's plan would ensure completion of the Brownsville-to-Uniontown section along with the PA Route 51 expressway section.
While it is a legitimate concern that Fayette County should see the Brownsville-to-Uniontown section advanced in a timely fashion, it is a misrepresentation that anyone involved in recent discussions called for the cancellation of this section.
We will continue to work with all state and federal elected officials to advance Plan H as the best way to complete the entire expressway project - not just the Fayette County or just the Allegheny County portion. The expressway project will be a failure if either of the two remaining section are not constructed.
The Mon Valley/Fayette Expressway is a project of the entire region and as such necessitates regional unity. Bombastic comments by Mr. Moser ill-serve this objective.
Joe Kirk is the executive director of the Mon Valley Progress Council, co-chairman of the Mon/Fayette Expressway Association and chairman of the Mon Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway Alliance.