by Lauren Daley
State funding that was a lynchpin in the Port Authority's funding package for the year is not in jeopardy if the agency undergoes leadership changes, even to a controversial figure like board member and former head of the PA Turnpike Commission Joseph Brimmeier.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has so far paid the Port Authority $9.3 million of $30 million committed for this year.
"The funding was part of Governor Corbett’s commitment to sustaining public transportation for the citizens of Pittsburgh and surrounding communities in exchange for the Port Authority agreeing to real, long term cost-containment reforms that addressed their budget's structural problems in the years ahead," says Steve Chizmar, PennDOT spokesman, in an email. "The funding is not in jeopardy."
Chizmar says transportation secretary Barry Schoch "has enjoyed and continues to enjoy" a working relationship with authority CEO Steve Bland, who county executive Rich Fitzgerald will likely ouster at tomorrow's board meeting.
"If the decision is reached to replace him, [Schoch] hopes that there is careful consideration given to his replacement and future direction of the Port Authority," Chizmar says.
As for the potential appointment of Brimmeier, the former CEO of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission whose tenure has been clouded by charges of nepotism and cronyism and multiple state and federal investigations, Chizmar says: "Transit is a complicated business to operate efficiently. It is always critical that transit management has transit experience and is qualified to manage the agency."
Federal funds, at least from the Federal Transit Administration, are also not in jeopardy. According to the FTA, the agency has no role in actions regarding executive leadership of agencies that receive FTA funds. The authority received $38.5 million in FTA funding in Fiscal Year 2012.