With Biden bound for Pittsburgh, W.Pa Dems want to put the focus on the Mon Valley

In this 2010 photo, workers toil nearly 200 feet above the ground from the top of a pier in Denbo, Pa., to build a new Mon-Fayette Expressway bridge crossing the Monongahela River (Flickr Commons photo).

President Joe Biden is set to return to Pennsylvania on Wednesday, where he’s expected to make a pitch for the first leg of a multi-trillion economic recovery package: an ambitious plan to rebuild roads and bridges and other key pieces of infrastructure.

Ahead of that stop in Pittsburgh, a cadre of Democratic state lawmakers from western Pennsylvania are making their own pitch to the White House and Congress, urging them to invest in the Monongahela River Valley and to help kick start the region’s economy.

“As we start to emerge from the pandemic, we need to talk about what comes next – and that includes investing in our nation’s infrastructure,” Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny, said in a joint statement. “I agree with President Biden – and I urge him and members of Congress to look at several vital projects in the Mon Valley.”

Last week, Davis joined by fellow Democratic Reps. Nick Pisciottano, Summer Lee and Brandon Markosek, wrote a letter to the region’s congressional delegation asking them to consider two major infrastructure projects: the extension of the Martin Luther King East Busway and the last leg of the Mon-Fayette Expressway.

The two projects would create more than “21,000 long-term jobs, bring businesses to the Mon Valley, increase housing opportunities, reduce traffic on other roadways, and create a beltway-style link from the south to the Turnpike,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Mon Valley, which sits southwest of Pittsburgh, the region has struggled with transportation issues, and residents and businesses alike have found it difficult to travel to Pittsburgh and other parts of western Pennsylvania.

“Not only would these projects allow for the movement of people or goods, but for investment in the long underserved and under resourced communities that we collectively represent,” the lawmakers wrote. “The completion of these projects will not only change the trajectory for the Mon Valley but would have a lasting impact on the entire region and all southwestern Pennsylvania.”

Despite Republican grumbling over the $1.9 trillion price-tag of the White House’s recently approved COVID-19 stimulus package, infrastructure spending, as a broad issue, has drawn GOP support, the Associated Press reported Sunday.

But Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have balked at the size and scope of Biden’s overall plan, as well as his focus on the environment, the Associated Press reported. Republicans favor a narrower bill focused on road and bridge repairs.

At his first news conference last week, Biden called it “frustrating” that the U.S. had let much of its infrastructure deteriorate and said his upcoming plan will create significant jobs, which he said “used to be a great Republican goal and initiative.”

But Biden doesn’t just face skepticism from Republicans. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., recently said he will block infrastructure legislation if Republicans aren’t included, the Associated Press further reported.

Associated Press reports are included in this story.

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press