Pittsburgh’s BRT Plan Gets Spiffed Up For Another Round With The Feds

Aug 17, 2018

The board of the Urban Redevelopment Authority approved next steps for Pittsburgh’s bus rapid transit project on Thursday. City of Pittsburgh and Port Authority officials are preparing to re-submit a federal funding request.

If the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration grants the almost $98 million, the URA would disperse the money. The city would do the work to reconfigure streets, build sidewalks and bike lanes, and the Port Authority would run the service.

Construction could begin in late 2019, said David Wohlwill, Port Authority’s program manager of long-range planning.

“One of the advantages of doing a bus rapid transit project is that, one can phase it,” he said. “Just do portions of it as funding becomes available, if we don’t get all the funding in the time that we originally planned.”

U.S. DOT has yet to spend most of its 2018 money, but they’re not too worried, said Justin Miller of the city’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure.

“The big news will be whether or not the project is recommended for inclusion in the president’s budget, which of course nobody experienced this year,” he said. “It wasn’t a negative about our project, it was just kind of nationwide that didn’t happen. So we’re hoping that it kind of gets back to normal next year.”

Pittsburgh’s $200 million BRT proposal received high marks in its first submission. The initiative remains largely the same, with the notable exception of an updated service plan.

Wohlwill said one of the region’s strengths is the share of non-federal money already committed to the project. The county has promised money, and applications for some state funds are pending, said Miller.

The Port Authority will submit its application by September 7, with a determination expected early next summer.

The BRT would run between Downtown and Oakland, with spurs to Highland Park, Squirrel Hill and Greenfield, and along the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway.