On today's program: A conversation with U.S. Attorney Scott Brady on what's next in the Tree of Life shooting trial; a Perry Hilltop organization gives students trade skills; Pennsylvania's has one of the highest freight trucking rates in the country; and Port Authority expounds on its next 20 years.
Local crime policies could have a national application
(00:00 — 12:50)
Scott Brady, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, has been appointed to assist Attorney General William Barr in shaping crime policies. Brady says the broad policies are set by the Attorney General, but that Barr will allow Brady and his counterparts to adapt them to fit their individual districts.
"There are some things that we are doing here in Pittsburgh, especially in the cyber space, and frankly in response to the opioid epidemic, that other districts can learn from."
The advisory committee, made up of nine regional U.S. attorneys, will also advise Barr on management and operational issues that affect their offices.
Brady also tell's The Confluence's Kevin Gavin that the trial against the alleged mass shooter from last year's Tree of Life slayings has yet to begin. Brady says the two sides are still in the discovery phase and negotiating how much each side will be required to share. Robert Bowers, 47, of Baldwin is charged with 11 counts of criminal homicide in the October 2018 shooting.
Brady says the case has drawn attention to extremism and anti-Semitism, and that his team is interested in seeking justice “in a way that serves the interest of the public and the Jewish community…and honors the memories of the victims.”
Enriching students with academic and life skills
(14:12 — 17:52)
At the end of every school day, some students head to The Pittsburgh Project in the Perry Hilltop section of the city’s North Side. Executive director Wayne Younger says the project partners with local schools to offer enrichment activities and academic help, as well as investing in their social well-being.
The overarching goal is to familiarize young people with various trades, helping them forge the life skills needed—both in and outside of work—to become well-rounded citizens. Over its 34 years, The Pittsburgh Project has engaged students from kindergarten through their senior year in high school.
Freight demands weigh heavy on PA infrastructure
(17:53 — 28:05)
More goods—and more expensive goods—are shipped through Pennsylvania than almost anywhere else in the U.S., and a new report by the transportation research nonprofit TRIP shows its taking a toll on local infrastructure.
According to the report, Pennsylvania ranked fifth in the nation in both the value of freight delivered by trucks and the number of fatalities related to freight delivery.
TRIP research and policy director Rocky Moretti tells The Confluence’s Megan Harris that online retail is driving a lot the demand, but existing systems are overtaxed by a lack of capacity, inadequate funding and a shortage of drivers.
"Reliance is increasing," he says. "It’s partly due to consumers. We want things faster. We want them quicker. … You look at Amazon or large grocers. They’re all very reliant on fast and efficient movement of goods, but we’re also starting to recognize that our infrastructure isn’t really adequate to support it.”
Moretti says automation and vehicle platooning between urban centers could one day improve efficiency, but for now, he says it's up to Congress to provide funding to help states like Pennsylvania address its bottlenecks, deteriating bridges and roads.
What does the future of mass transit in Pittsburgh look like?
(28:10 — 38:40)
The Port Authority of Allegheny County is looking for a consultant to help develop a 20-year plan for mass transit in the Pittsburgh region. CEO Katharine Kelleman says it will address several questions: “Should it be overnight? Should we have robust programs where employers are subsidizing transit as opposed to parking? How should it factor into development?”
Kelleman says development will involve a lot of conversations with current riders, businesses and other stakeholders, and in the meantime, the authority is restoring the agency’s planning department, which was eliminated in 2014.
“We are transitioning from a decade of cutting and tightening belts to saying, 'Our customers deserve better than us saying we can’t afford to do our jobs.'"
Nearer term goals for include WiFi on buses and starting a pilot program in December that allows riders to use an app to pay their fares.
“We’re planning for the future," Kelleman says, "so we can do better service today.”
90.5 WESA's Kristofer Stubbs contributed to this program.
The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.