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Federal infrastructure bill could bring up to $100 million to support Allegheny County transit

oakland street bus port authority transit.JPG
Katie Blackley
/
90.5 WESA

On today’s episode of The Confluence: The Port Authority of Allegheny County’s CEO and chief development officer weigh in on the projects and transit improvements they hope to tackle with the help of federal infrastructure funds; photographer Njaimeh Njie talks about her latest book, “This Is Where We Find Ourselves,” which blends her own history with commentary on the gentrification in the city; and we answer the question: Is the universe constantly expanding? 

Port Authority expects funding from the infrastructure bill, with many possibilities 
(0:00 - 12:47)

President Joe Biden signed $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law Nov. 15. Pennsylvania is poised to receive billions of dollars for investments in infrastructure, broadband and more. As the days go by we’re getting more specifics, including the bill’s impact on transit.

Gov. Tom Wolf had indicated Pennsylvania expects to receive $2.8 billion over five years to improve public transportation options. Of that, Katharine Kelleman, CEO of the Port Authority of Allegheny County, hopes the region will get up to $100 million.

“We don’t know how that slices and dices,” says Kelleman. “I will say there are a lot of really beneficial programs in the bill that can be really helpful for us, and that is even separate from the amount that we’re talking about coming back to the commonwealth as a whole.”

Kelleman says most immediately, the Port Authority is looking to finalize the design of new transit connections in the East End, and a new bus garage.

The Port Authority board recently adopted NEXTransit, a 25-year long range plan for the organization. David Huffaker , chief development officer, says the funds could help take on some of the higher priority projects in that plan, like the “river-to-river connection” which would connect Lawrenceville or the Strip District, to the Hill District, Oakland, and Hazelwood.

“It would restore some historic lack of investment in transit connections, particularly for the Hill District, but also for Hazelwood,” says Huffaker. “Some of the funding could at least provide some studies for how we would best serve that corridor and provide some future connections there.”

Kelleman says transit per capita has been underinvested in the U.S. and she would like to see that trend turn around.

“The strong message I see coming back from the infrastructure bill is that even during a pandemic where fewer people are riding, this is still a system that we should bolster,” says Kelleman. “Transit is transformative. If you don’t need that car, what could you do in your world?”

Pittsburgh photographer Njaimeh Nije delves into her history and the city’s with her new exhibit
(12:52 - 17:14)

In her photographs and public artworks, Njaimeh Njie documents Pittsburgh’s Black communities. Her new book of photographs combines personal history with social commentary about gentrification.

90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll spoke with Njie about her book, “This Is Where We Find Ourselves.” The exhibition version of her book is on view at Silver Eye Center in Bloomfield, through February 19.

Is the universe constantly expanding?
(17:18 - 22:30)

The Confluence has been asking families for questions, those very good questions that a kid in your life might have that leaves you scratching your head.

As part of 90.5 WESA’s Good Question, Kid! Series, Mike Hennessy, the manager of the Buhl Planetarium at the Carnegie Science Center, answers this inquiry: is the universe always expanding?

“It’s not just that the universe is expanding out into space, it’s that space itself is expanding,” says Hennessey. “I like to think of it as expanding raisin bread: So if you’re baking a loaf of raisin bread, the raisins don’t get bigger, and you can think of the galaxies that way. They don’t get bigger, but the space between them is constantly getting bigger, and that’s like the dough and the bread that’s rising.”

If a kid in your life has a good question, you can fill out our form or send it to confluence@wesa.fm.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.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.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Rebecca Reese is a production assistant for The Confluence.
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