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Ex-Port Authority exec Biehler to head PennDOT

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

By James O'Toole, Post-Gazette Politics Editor

Gov.-elect Ed Rendell has chosen Allen D. Biehler, a transportation consultant and former executive of the Allegheny County Port Authority, as his nominee for secretary of transportation.

Allen D. Biehler (1996 file photo)

Rendell will make the announcement this morning at a news conference Downtown. The former Philadelphia mayor had said earlier that he was looking for someone with business experience for the powerful position. He also said he wanted a nominee committed to mass transportation. Biehler's resume supplies both qualifications.

He worked at the Port Authority for 17 years in a variety of senior planning, construction and engineering positions. When he resigned in 1996 to join a private consulting firm, he was the authority's acting executive director, having succeeded William W. Millar.

Biehler, 57, then worked as a consultant for the international planning firm of Frederic R. Harris Inc., guiding the expansion of a light rail system in San Juan, Puerto Rico. More recently, he returned to Pittsburgh as project manager for the Harris firm on a Port Authority consulting contract that involved planning for transit expansion on the North Shore.

"This is an excellent choice by the governor[-elect]," said Millar, now president of the American Public Transportation Association. "Al is a superb human being with a great sense of values ... he's well-versed in all aspects of transportation."

Biehler, an engineer by training, worked in planning for the Port Authority, assuming added responsibilities for engineering and construction in the latter part of his tenure. The major projects he had responsibility for included the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway, the Airport Busway and the South Hills Light Rail Transit line.

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Paul Skoutelas, the Port Authority's current chief executive officer, has worked with Biehler for much of his public career. He echoed Millar's praise.

"[Biehler] has multi-modal experience and a multi-modal perspective ... he understands highway systems," said Skoutelas. "He's very hard-working and has impeccable integrity."

Biehler's nomination must be confirmed by the state Senate. The PennDOT secretary also serves as the governor's representative on the five-member Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Rendell's appearance here today follows his announcement yesterday that he would nominate Vicki Phillips, the Lancaster school superintendent, as his secretary of education, and Donna Cooper, executive director of Good Schools Pennsylvania, as his policy director.

Ken Snyder, spokesman for Rendell's transition team, said more major appointments would follow soon.

"We anticipate making public 14 or 15 of the 16 Cabinet nominations by the [Jan. 21] inaugural as well as the vast majority of the governor's staff," said Snyder.

Rendell had previously named Leslie Ann Miller as his general counsel.

Staff writer Joe Grata contributed to this report.

James O'Toole can be reached at jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562.

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