PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch attended a forum in Bradford this morning concerning transportation issues in the state. Other issues were discussed as well with Senators Joe Scarnati and John Rafferty, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and State Representative Marty Causer.
ARG Resources President Harvey Golubock said, although it’s federally funded, he wanted to hear their thoughts about the Essential Air Service Program.
“We struggle here at the airport trying to maintain the Essential Air Service,” Golubock said. “I’d like to know what your thoughts are on the support and how we can ensure continued EAS for our Bradford airport because it’s critical to the growth of our infrastructure here.”
Scarnati said nothing irks him more than having to play a “game” with the federal government on whether they are going to continue funding the EAS program.
“I think that whether it’s airports, whether it’s hospitals, whether it’s schools – if the federal government’s intent is to close the airport then tell us you want to close it. Don’t put us out there on the vine to wither and die for decades only to get to the same result,” he said.
“Either they’re for funding our airports adequately – making sure we have air service in the rural areas -- or they’re not,” he said. “But inadequate funding isn’t a solution. And we have inadequate funding right now from the feds. It’s inadequate.”
Scarnati says if the federal government thinks Bradford and other rural communities are not worthy of an airport “just cut the cord for us and let us go our own way and figure it out.”
Instead, he said, they keep reducing funding and making that funding contingent upon attainable goals for flights, passengers and services.
Rafferty, who has five rural airports in his Senate district, agreed that the federal government is constantly playing games with regional airports.
He said Bradford Regional is “a vital cog to the economic development of this area, not just from a business standpoint but from an education standpoint.”
He said it’s important for the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford to get students, educators and speakers in and out.
He suggested area residents “twist the arms” of federal legislators on the EAS issue.
“It’s not just a club for people with planes to fly in an out,” he said. “It is really an opportunity to make a connection through the whole Commonwealth."
Although Rafferty drove from Montgomery County for the forum, he said he has flown in and out of Bradford Regional Airport.
“I met Tullah Hanley at Bradford airport,” he said, smiling. “That’s one of my claims to fame.”