Tribune Democrat: Send Shuster back to D.C. to tackle road, rail projects

We support Bill Shuster for re-election because his role as chairman of the House Transportation Committee puts him in a key position concerning projects of great importance to our region.

Shuster, R-Everett, has been a leader in the effort to extend Route 219 south through Somerset County into Maryland. It is critical that the project maintain momentum from the Somerset-to-Meyersdale stretch, now under construction, and is completed to Route 68 south of the state border.

Shuster is also positioned to help make the push for expanded passenger rail service between the Johnstown/Altoona region and Pittsburgh become a reality. His transportation committee has influence on decisions by rail carrier Amtrak, and on federal dollars for such projects.

The Republican incumbent is our pick in the 9th Congressional District over challenger Art Halvorson, who lost to Shuster in the GOP primary but landed on the fall ballot because of write-in votes on the Democratic side.

Adding a second east-west passenger train run would make Johnstown a more attractive bedroom community for Pittsburgh and could enhance local tourism opportunities.

“We believe the potential traffic is there and we believe the traffic will grow,” Shuster said of the call for more passenger rail service.

“We need to get out and talk to people and convince them to ride the rails,” he said, “because at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to make this work.”

Of the 219 highway effort, which would have a huge economic impact across our region, Shuster said: “That is the most significant project for which we’ve been able to unlock dollars and that’s what we’ll be working on.”

We want Shuster’s impact in key transportation efforts, but we want that influence delivered in an appropriate manner.

Like Halvorson, we have criticized Shuster’s unprofessional and inappropriate relationship with a lobbyist for the aviation industry – clearly a severe ethical misstep given his role as chairman.

“We’ve got a congressman in this district who’s sleeping with a lobbyist and has no shame, feels like it’s fine,” Halvorson said.

And like Shuster, we take issue with Halvorson’s decision to accept the Democratic nomination without changing parties – misleading for Democratic voters and unfair since he already lost to Shuster once in 2016.

“This is selfishness on my opponent’s part,” Shuster said.

“He’s asking Republicans to split their ticket.”

Shuster represents the values and needs of our region in other issues. The incumbent supports:

• Bringing down the national debt and deficit by controlling spending and working to grow the economy;

• Helping the region’s manufacturers by easing taxes and “the regulatory burden.” He said: “If we can do that, our problem – and it’s a great problem to have – is that companies will flood into Pennsylvania.”

• Rebuilding the military by reviving defense spending because “we have fewer planes, fewer ships” – and fewer jobs tied to the defense industry, a concern felt keenly in the Johnstown region.

Shuster supports presidential nominee Donald Trump’s tough immigration plans, including the insistence that “we need a serious wall” on the Mexican border. Shuster linked border security to reducing the flow of drugs – especially heroin – into the United States where it can make its way to western Pennsylvania.

Fighting heroin is one of our biggest concerns, and should be a focus for all area elected officials – and those aspiring to serve.

“If this stuff is coming across our border, then the federal government has a responsibility to act,” Shuster said.

Re-electing Shuster is the best option for voters in the 9th district – and for our entire region.