Gainey lays out preliminary plan for Hazelwood transportation at public meeting
Pittsburgh officials say they are still committed to establishing a stronger transportation connection between Oakland and Hazelwood.
At a public meeting on Thursday, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Councilman Corey O’Connor spoke with Hazelwood residents about the now-canceled Mon-Oakland Connector.
“The Mon-Oakland connector shuttle project will not move forward,” Gainey said. “The city is still committed to making significant investments in Panther Hollow and the Run that will improve residents’ daily lives.”
The Mon-Oakland Connector would have created a transportation corridor for electric shuttles, bikes, and scooters to better link parts of the Mon Valley to Oakland. However, the connector was opposed by many residents who said it did not meet their needs, and on Wednesday Gainey announced that the city would no longer support the divisive project.
“As we seek to improve mobility throughout our city, we will focus on investing in transportation justice-oriented projects to increase connectivity,” Gainey said in a statement.
The city will instead prioritize “increased connectivity and equitable transit improvements” along Second Avenue, Bates Street, and Boulevard of the Allies.
Rather than building trails that could support electric shuttles, Gainey said his office will make improvements for people traveling by bus, on foot, or by bike.
The discussion came on the heels of a recent report which argues that the city has focused too heavily on private transportation options, like ride-sharing, instead of public transit.
According to researchers from Pittsburghers for Public Transit and Tech4Society, which released the report, low-income residents and people with disabilities use public transportation the most, and they’re often excluded from more expensive private transportation options like ride-sharing or electric scooters. The report calls for greater investments in “core infrastructure” like sidewalks, bus shelters, roads, and bridges—a sentiment that was echoed by residents who attended the meeting.
“[Transportation] is just limited right now,” said Reverend Tim Smith, the executive director of the Center of Life in Hazelwood. "It's very limited.”
Residents outlined the need for improved sidewalks and infrastructure, and more comprehensive routes for Port Authority buses like the 75.
O’Connor, whose city council district includes parts of Hazelwood that would have been affected by the Mon-Oakland Connector, worked to steadily defund the project before it was officially cancelled. Over the last four years, roughly $4 million dollars was diverted from the project to other issues. On Thursday, O’Connor said some of that money has been reinvested in the community. About $1 million of the funds will be used to rebuild a trail along Sylvan Avenue and restore the Hazelwood Greenway. Additional money will be used to fix lighting, steps, and community buildings in Hazelwood.
And though the transportation project will see major changes, Gainey said the city will move forward with a planned storm water management project in the lower part of Greenfield.