April 08– Apr. 8–BRIGHTON TWP. — U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb said Monday that he wants to focus on a major infrastructure funding bill, and he warned that America risks falling behind other nations if research money in the nuclear industry wanes.
Pennsylvania still ranks second in the number of structurally deficient bridges, Lamb, D-17, Mount Lebanon, said, but Pittsburgh sports fans would not stand for the Steelers or Penguins being nearly league worsts.
“We wouldn’t tolerate it for more than one year, Pirates may be another story,” Lamb said. “We should feel the same way about the bones of our economy.”
Lamb addressed a roomful of Beaver County Chamber of Commerce members at the group’s annual congressional breakfast at Heritage Valley Beaver hospital in Brighton Township, then spent about an hour fielding questions.
Illustrating the need for an overhaul of roads and bridges in the state, Lamb pointed to the Jeannette-based Elliott Co. that makes turbines and compressors.
When it ships overseas, Lamb said, the company does so out of Philadelphia. But, a 300-mile trip is tripled in length because its massive trucks have to take a convoluted route to avoid weight limits on crumbling bridges and roads.
Elliott, though, is competing against General Electric, which unlike the local company can afford to absorb the costs to get products to the port.
“We’re placing (Elliott) at a disadvantage,” Lamb said. “We’re placing our own people at a disadvantage.”
Closer to Beaver County, Lamb said the Montgomery Locks and Dam in Industry, which is scheduled for repairs, should have been fixed years ago, especially because companies can move products cheaper on the Ohio River than with trucks on highways.
“There’s real work to be done here, is my point,” Lamb said. “None of that work has a partisan bend to it.”
Lamb said there is a “screwy system” to fund and repair locks and dams and an approach that kicks resolutions down the road. He said his grandfather, former state Senate Democratic Majority Leader Thomas Lamb, chaired the Port of Pittsburgh Commission and was in a meeting in 1994 discussing Lower Mon projects.
“He looked around the table and said, ‘Guys we’ve got to get this right. We’ve got to get all the money now. If we don’t get this right, my grandkids will be dealing with this problem,'” Lamb said, drawing chuckles from the audience.
A quarter of a century later, the Lower Mon project has never been fully funded so costs have soared, Lamb said. “He was right,” Lamb said of his grandfather. “His grandkids were still dealing with it, and it makes no sense.”
Lamb also connected the dots between the local economic impact of the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station in Shippingport, government-driven nuclear research and development, industry manufacturing and the country staying competitive with other nations that are taking the lead on nuclear and solar panel construction in emerging overseas markets seeking to expand their energy production.
“It’s all one issue, and we need leadership up and down the chain,” said Lamb, who told the crowd that he wants to bring the House Science, Space and Technology’s subcommittee on energy, which he chairs, to the county for a hearing highlighting the impact of nuclear power.