Transportation Plan Calls For $4.7 Billion For Southwestern Pennsylvania

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro ar...

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro area in the western part of the of . Red denotes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Pittsburgh-New Castle CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A draft plan for improvements to the region’s transportation system envisions $4.7 billion in spending in the 10 counties of southwestern Pennsylvania in the next four years, a 52 percent increase from the current four-year plan.

The plan for fiscal years 2015 through 2018 signals a reversal of years of diminished spending on infrastructure and public transit, bolstered by the funding bill that the Legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett enacted last fall. The draft Transportation Improvement Plan was released last week by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, a regional planning agency.

“From my perspective, we were able to add significant projects that were simply unaffordable in the last TIP update,” said Dan Cessna, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s district executive for Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties.

Among them is a $79 million rehabilitation of the Liberty Bridge in Downtown Pittsburgh, which at present is weight-restricted and rated structurally deficient, meaning its components are deteriorated but not yet unsafe. Numerous smaller bridge and paving projects were added as well, he said.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/frontpage/2014/06/23/Plan-calls-for-boost-for-southwestern-Pa-transportation/stories/201406230085#ixzz35UedvrMx

Pittsburgh-Area Employers Added 22,300 Jobs In April

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro ar...

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro area in the western part of the of . Red denotes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Pittsburgh-New Castle CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sunny Kourkoutis spent six months on unemployment and a couple more working in a job she hated before she found something that suited her restaurant experience.

“When I was on unemployment, I could have easily gotten a job as a server,” said Kourkoutis, 42, of Bridgeville. “But at my age, it’s not something I really saw myself doing.”

In April, Kourkoutis finally found a job she enjoyed. She was hired as reservations manager at Jacksons Restaurant in Cecil and since was promoted to assistant executive manager. In so doing, she joined a hospitality industry that added 8,100 jobs last month and has led growth in the local economy.

Employers in the seven-county Pittsburgh region added 22,300 nonfarm jobs in April, and the unemployment rate declined two-tenths of a percentage point to 5.6 percent, according to preliminary figures released on Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. The decline occurred as 3,900 more people began looking for work, an expression of confidence in Pittsburgh’s economy.

Read more: http://triblive.com/business/headlines/6188520-74/22300-added-april#ixzz338k1vjC0
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Pittsburgh Tribune Circulation Pulls Away From Post-Gazette’s

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Tribune-Review widened its circulation edge over the Post-Gazette with gains in its printed newspapers on Sundays.

The Tribune-Review and its Trib Total Media-branded papers and electronic editions posted a Sunday circulation total of 337,484 during the six months that ended March 31, more than 45,000 ahead of the P-G, according to figures from the Alliance for Audited Media.

Average weekday and Saturday circulation over the six months at the Trib also outpaced the competition.

The Trib’s Sunday papers increased from a year ago partly because of the inclusion under alliance rules of branded community papers.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/6108284-74/trib-circulation-editions#ixzz31zPnaWhJ
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Pennsylvania Woman Was On Board Missing Malaysia Airlines Jet

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MONONGAHELA, PA — A company official says a woman based in western Pennsylvania was among the 239 people aboard a Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared en route to Beijing over the weekend.

A spokeswoman said Mei Ling Chng, a senior process engineer for Flexsys America in Monongahela near Pittsburgh, “is confirmed to have been on the flight.”

Tracy Kilgore of Flexsys parent firm Eastman Chemical Co., which is based in Kingsport, Tenn., told reporters in an email that officials “are deeply shocked and saddened.”

She said Chng went to work for the chemical company Solutia in Malaysia in 2005 and transferred to Monongahela in 2010.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140310/pa-woman-was-on-board-missing-malaysia-airlines-jet

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Train Carrying Crude Oil Derails In Vandergrift

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Westmoreland ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Westmoreland County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Twenty-one cars of a freight train hauling oil and gas derailed this morning in Vandergrift, striking a building that houses a specialty metals firm, authorities said. No one was injured.

Hazmat crews responded to MSI Corp. in the 200 block of First Street in Vandergrift, and the state Department of Environmental Protection was sending a three-member emergency response team after reports that oil was leaking from overturned cars.

The 120-car Norfolk Southern Railway train with three locomotives was headed east around 8 a.m. when it derailed. Nineteen of the 21 derailed cars overturned.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/westmoreland/2014/02/13/Train-carrying-crude-oil-derails-in-Vandergrift/stories/201402130275#ixzz2tF0xF5Zs

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Western Pennsylvania District Provides Example Of Successful School Merger

Map of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, United Sta...

Map of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MONACA, PA – In a dimly lit steakhouse some 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, two school superintendents – one current and one newly retired – crowd into a booth illuminated by neon signs.

The smell of barbecue permeates the air at PJ’s Bar-B-Q & Steak House, as Nick Perry and Dan Matsook grab menus and talk school mergers.

For Matsook, it’s a familiar setting for such a discussion.

In October 2005, Matsook, then superintendent of the Center Area School District, sat in another restaurant, the Ground Round in nearby Moon Township, where he and school officials from his district and the neighboring Monaca School District laid the foundation for what would be the first voluntary merger of two school districts in Pennsylvania.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article/20140113/NEWS/301139967/1052#.UtQx2vRDsxI

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Pittsburgh Suburbs Suffering Poverty At High Rate

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Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro area in the western part of the of . Red denotes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Pittsburgh-New Castle CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Poverty is growing at a faster rate in the suburbs than in the cities, and the Pittsburgh area is ahead of the curve — but not in a good way.

Nationally, about 55 percent of the population living in poverty is outside of cities, but in Allegheny County, 61 percent of people living in poverty are in the suburbs, and the number rises to 79 percent when the Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area is measured. That area includes Allegheny and its six surrounding counties.

Those numbers come from Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., and co-author of “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America.”

Ms. Kneebone said suburban poverty has been growing since 2000 and became more significant than urban poverty even before the economic meltdown of 2008 and 2009. The recession exacerbated it.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2013/11/18/Suburbs-suffering-at-high-rate/stories/201311180136#ixzz2l1MynVBs

Southwestern Pennsylvania Transit Merger Report Is Due Out In April

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Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro area in the western part of the of . Red denotes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Pittsburgh-New Castle CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A private firm hired by PennDOT to study the merging of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s 10 transit systems — which has drawn interest from county leaders across the region — said on Monday it will present its findings in April.

Officials from outside of Alle­gheny County said forming a regional transit system is a good idea but are wary of taking on the costs of the Port Authority of Allegheny County.

“We’ve got to look at it. All of these small transit systems are dying on the vine. There’s no federal and state funding. You want to see if you can consolidate some things, but a lot of details have to be worked out,” said Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi. “I certainly don’t want to absorb (Port Authority legacy costs) to Washington County taxpayers.”

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/4961575-74/transit-county-authority#ixzz2j8v6KQEL
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Unemployment In Pittsburgh Region Falls To Lowest In Post-Recession Recovery

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Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro area in the western part of the of . Red denotes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Pittsburgh-New Castle CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unemployment in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area fell to 6.8 percent in June, a rate one-tenth of a percentage point below May’s 6.9 percent but that marks a new low of the post-recession recovery.

The last time unemployment was at 6.8 percent in the region was in March 2009, when unemployment was rising in the midst of the Great Recession.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/unemployment-in-pittsburgh-region-falls-to-lowest-in-post-recession-recovery-697432/#ixzz2aYC55kY0

Tolls Climbing, Traffic Declining As Pa. Turnpike Officials Chase Revenue

Pennsylvania Turnpike Ticket from the Warrenda...

Pennsylvania Turnpike Ticket from the Warrendale (30) Toll Stop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  They’re pricing themselves out of business!

HARRISBURG — If you tax something, you get less of it.

It’s one of the basic lessons of economics, and the same principle can be applied to tolls, as the Pennsylvania Turnpike is finding out.

Motorists using the turnpike will face their fifth toll increase in as many years when rates climbed by 10 percent for cash-paying customers (2 percent for those using EZ-Pass) on Sunday.

A recent investigation by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review examined how those increases have affected truck traffic on the highway — suggesting that the higher tolls have caused trucks to divert onto local roads in western Pennsylvania instead of using the turnpike:

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130107/NEWS01/130109756/tolls-climbing-traffic-declining-as-pa-turnpike-officials-chase-revenue#full_story

Natural Gas Boom Fuels U.S. Office Market

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro ar...

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro area in the western part of the of . Red denotes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Pittsburgh-New Castle CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bloomberg — Leasing demand from natural-gas and other energy companies is helping to bolster the U.S. office market and drive growth in cities such as Pittsburgh, where rents are at their highest in more than a decade.

Greater Pittsburgh, along with Houston and other cities with concentrations of energy-related workers, is outpacing national growth in rents and occupancy, according to a report today from Reis Inc., which showed U.S. office landlords had net gains in leased space for a second year in 2012, following three years of declines.  Tenants in energy, along with technology, helped push the national vacancy rate to a three-year low.

In the fourth quarter, greater Pittsburgh office rents after landlord concessions climbed 1 percent from the previous three months, compared with 0.8 percent for the U.S., while the area’s vacancy rate held at 15.5 percent, below the national average of 17.1 percent, New York-based Reis said. Pittsburgh tenants paid an average of $17.68 a square foot in the fourth quarter, the highest since 2000, ranking it 12th out of 79 markets for growth.  In Houston, effective rents rose 1.7 percent, the fifth-most nationwide.

Read more:  http://www.mcall.com/business/mc-energy-office-market-20130107,0,3658617.story

Worst Of Hurricane Sandy Expected In Western Pennsylvania Tonight

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro ar...

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro area in the western part of the of . Red denotes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Pittsburgh-New Castle CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pennsylvania utility companies are reporting that more than 30,000 people are already without power around the state, in the first wave of what are expected to be an increasing number of outages because of Hurricane Sandy.

At 3:15 p.m. Monday PECO was reporting over 15,000 customers without power, mostly in the Philadelphia area.  First Energy reports more than 8,000 and PPL about 8,000, including some in the Harrisburg area.

The utilities have lined up extra repair crews, but they still say some people could be without power for days.

Larger numbers of people are already without power in New Jersey.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/region/hurricane-sandy-impacts-beginning-to-be-felt-into-western-pennsylvania-659697/#ixzz2AjIf57gf

Pittsburgh Region Sees 11th Consecutive Month Of Home Sales Increases

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro ar...

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro area in the western part of the of . Red denotes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Pittsburgh-New Castle CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The number of homes sold last month in the Pittsburgh area and their total value rose compared with August 2011, marking the 11th consecutive month of increases, according to data released today by local real estate information service RealSTATs.

“This comes off of seven years of consecutive decline,” RealSTATs vice president Daniel Murrer said.  “It’s significant.  We’re in the first year of positive growth in eight years.”

RealSTATs compiles the data from Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

The total dollar volume of home sales in August in the region was $478 million, up 11 percent from nearly $431 million a year earlier.

Pittsburgh Port Authority Bus, Rail Fare Increases Take Effect Sunday

The cost of a bus or rail ride will increase Sunday.

Increases approved by the Port Authority board include 25 cents in the Zone 1 fare, to $2.50; 50 cents in the Zone 2 fare, to $3.75; and commensurate rises in the cost of weekly and monthly passes and 10-ticket strips. Riders can use old tickets but must pay the difference in cash.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/region/port-authority-bus-rail-fare-increases-take-effect-today-642668/#ixzz1zHf99Wi6

Poor Economy Boosts Mass Transit Ridership In Butler County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Butler County

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When John Paul of the Butler Transit Authority saw the numbers of riders increasing in big numbers late last year, he thought, “Wow, that was a good month.”

When it happened again the next month, he thought it was a fluke.

Now that it has happened for six consecutive months, he’s calling it a trend.

In fact, overall use of public transit in Butler County is skyrocketing, a fact that local experts link to dual factors of a battered economy and improvements in the transit systems.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/12005/1201300-54-0.stm#ixzz1idLTnao0

Pittsburgh Ranks 37th In Best-Performing Cities List

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The Pittsburgh metro area fell five spots but remained in the Top 40 in the 2011 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index measuring economic and job growth.

Pittsburgh was ranked 37 on the 2011 list compared to 32 in 2010. This year’s No. 32 was York-Hanover, Pa; the only other Pennsylvania city in the top 50 was Philadelphia, at No. 49.

Pittsburgh was 30th in the United States when it came to one-year job growth during the recession years of 2009-10, and 60th in terms of five-year growth from 2005 to 2010. It was 50th in terms of job growth from June 2010 to June 2011, the Milken Institute said.

Read more: http://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/news/2011/12/19/pittsburgh-37th-best-performing-city.html?ed=2011-12-19&s=article_du&ana=e_du_pub

Metropolitan Pittsburgh Records Population Gain For Second Year In A Row

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For most of the span since the end of World War II, more people have been leaving the Pittsburgh region than flocking to it.

For the second year in a row, that trend has been halted. The relative health of the local economy appears to be a motivator for retaining existing Pittsburghers and creating new ones.

The seven-county metropolitan region attracted 1,430 more people than the number who left it between 2009 and 2010, based on new Internal Revenue Service migration data, according to a report by Christopher Briem, a regional economist for the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for Social and Urban Research.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11344/1195941-53.stm#ixzz1gBpZAiaH