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U.S. Rep. Shuster named to head transportation committee

Republican says widening I-81 and other projects will be largely affected by funding

November 28, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com
  • U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster
U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — On the day he was named chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., told reporters he feels Interstate 81 needs to be widened to six lanes.

“It’s just wall-to-wall trucks. That roadway is going to need to be expanded,” Shuster said in a conference call.

The House Republican conference voted Wednesday afternoon to name Shuster and other committee chairmen for the 2013-14 session beginning in January. No Pennsylvania House member currently chairs a full committee.

Shuster currently chairs the subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials. Shuster’s father, Bud, chaired the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from 1995 to 2001.

Bud Shuster was well known for ensuring that Pennsylvania received substantially more in federal highway funding than it sent to Washington in gas taxes.

That premium has all but disappeared, as have the earmarks that members of Congress were able to win to direct toward favored highway or bridge projects. Still, Shuster’s position is important for the state.

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The 52-year-old Bill Shuster won election earlier this month to a seventh term representing the 9th Congressional District, which stretches from southcentral to southwestern Pennsylvania. The district includes Franklin and Fulton counties.

Shuster, of Hollidaysburg, Pa., said widening I-81 and other projects will be largely affected by funding.
“If we don’t (do it), we’ll continue to see congestion. ... Four lanes is not going to be enough on the 81 corridor,” he said.

Transportation is vital to the economy, and efficient shipping methods can lower the prices of goods, Shuster said.

Republicans have a strong legacy of major infrastructure initiatives, like President Dwight Eisenhower focusing on the interstate highway system and President Theodore Roosevelt pushing for completion of the Panama Canal, Shuster said.

“We have to continue to make these capital investments to keep our economy strong,” he said.

The committee will have 33 Republicans and 27 Democrats, according to Shuster.

Barry Schoch, Pennsylvania’s transportation secretary, said Shuster has energy and character and the ability to communicate effectively and build consensus.

Asked about how he’ll find more money to fund highway construction, Shuster would not say Wednesday whether he would seek an increase in the federal gas tax. It has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon for two decades as the price of diesel, asphalt and steel mill products have grown enormously and vehicles travel farther on fewer gallons of gas.

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