Development & Transportation

We cover how people move about the region, as well as trends in housing and commercial development.

Blind, Disabled Speak Out Against PAT Cuts

Feb 29, 2012

The Port Authority of Allegheny County got an earful on Wednesday from hundreds of people angry about the Board's plan to drop about half of its bus routes and reduce service on the rest.

PAT said it's legally required to balance its budget, so it has no choice but to raise fares and cut routes to deal with a $64 million budget deficit coming this July. If they're passed, the cuts would take effect in September, while fares would increase in July.

Transportation Funding Plan on Backburner

Feb 27, 2012

A plan to address Pennsylvania's aging roads and bridges may not be decided until the lion's share of the state budget takes shape, according to the head of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Lawmakers are wondering if and when Governor Tom Corbett will follow up on the fact-finding report of his special transportation panel with a plan to put recommended funding measures into effect. The Transportation Funding Advisory Committee called for billions of dollars of reinvestment into PennDOT's deteriorating infrastructure last summer.

Laser pointers are increasingly being used for more than just presentations, and a new law makes it a federal offense to direct the light from the device at an aircraft or its flight path. U.S. Attorney for Western Pennsylvania David Hickton says that incidents involving laser pointers and aircraft are becoming an epidemic.

"This is not a nuisance. This is not a prank," he said. "This is a serious federal crime which could cause disastrous consequences and will have serious repercussions in the criminal justice system."

Governor Tom Corbett announced this week 16 freight-rail improvement projects will benefit from a $23 million investment. Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway in Allegheny County will get $1.6 million to rehabilitate and expand track, prepare for a transload area, and install new turnouts, track, and ties.

In Beaver County, the Aliquippa Ohio River Railroad will receive $490,000 for upgrades. State Senator Elder Vogel (R-Beaver County) said the railway has been requesting the funds for more than a year now, and they'll be used for improvements on about 7 miles of railway.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority, along with a consortium led by GE Capital Aviation, is pursuing a contract to run Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Authority spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny said the authority is just one part of the group hoping to take control of the busiest airport in Puerto Rico, which flies out slightly more passengers than Pittsburgh International with 4.2 million departing passengers in 2010, according to FAA data.

PennDOT Outlines Regional Roadwork for 2012

Feb 6, 2012

Southwestern Pennsylvania motorists should prepare for scores of detours, closures, and restrictions this year, including roadwork on the Squirrel Hill Tunnel and the Veterans Bridge.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to work on nearly 170 road and bridge projects in Allegheny, Beaver, and Lawrence Counties in 2012, at a cost of $316.2 million. PennDOT District 11 will also open construction bids for 80 new projects this year.

The next phase of PlanPGH, "MovePGH," kicks off Thursday evening at Carnegie Mellon University.

"Move Pittsburgh is the city's first transportation plan, and that plan will serve as the vision of the city's transportation network for the next 25 years," said Stephen Patchan, bicycle/pedestrian coordinator for the city of Pittsburgh.

The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act is the largest transportation overhaul in decades, according to the chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. A provision within the five-year bill would increase the truck weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds.

East Side Pedestrian Bridge Now Open

Feb 1, 2012

The much-anticipated East Side Pedestrian Bridge is now officially open to foot traffic, after its original completion date of December 27, 2011 was delayed because of weather and safety issues. The walkway links the intersection of Ellsworth Avenue at Spahr Street with the southwest corner of the Eastside development parking deck in East Liberty.

PennDOT Details Modernization Efforts On New Webpage

Jan 31, 2012

Since the beginning of 2011, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has been working to modernize the way it does business. Now, the public can see what projects have been completed and what projects are still to come, all from the PennDOT website.

Transportation Secretary Barry J. Schoch publicly announced the new site on Tuesday. "PennDOT has a lon-standing tradition of continuous improvement. Now, the public can more easily track our efforts to enhance customer service, save money, and deliver projects more quickly," Schoch said.

2,568 miles of roadway fall under the PennDot District 11 umbrella, and recent weather conditions have lead to a whole new crop of potholes. Jim Struzzi, PennDot District 11 spokesperson, reminds motorists of Allegheny, Beaver, and Lawrence counties to report safety concerns by calling 1-800-FIX-ROAD (1-800-349-7623).

The toll-free number can be called to report anything from signs, animal carcasses, or other safety concerns such as snow, ice, faulty drainage, or shoulder drop-offs.

Following a rally to urge Pennsylvania lawmakers to take action to provide consistent funding for public transit in the Pittsburgh region, protestors and officials filed into the monthly Port Authority board meeting.

County Executive Makes Case for Transit Funding to Lawmakers

Jan 26, 2012

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald followed the well-worn path to Harrisburg this week to talk to lawmakers, department heads, and the Governor about the transit funding crisis. Governor Tom Corbett is expected to release his transportation funding plan within the next couple of weeks, and Fitzgerald said he wanted to talk to the governor ahead of that announcement.

Pittsburgh's Bicycle/Pedestrian coordinator has the goal of doubling the number of bike racks in neighborhood business districts from the current 300 and making similar strides in growing the number of miles of on-street bike lanes from the current 20 miles.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Dan Frankel is introducing a package of bills he said would put a stop to drastic cuts proposed by the Port Authority. The bills would dedicate 2 percent of existing sales tax revenue to mass transit and restructure Act 44 to take contributions the Turnpike Commission is currently making to highways and bridges and put more toward mass transit.

"That would be an additional $200 million above and beyond the $250 million they're already getting, the sales tax would generate $102 million," said Frankel.

The Hickory Street bridge in Johnstown will be closed for two to three weeks while a contractor makes repairs to damages caused by age and salt water corrosion. Ralph DeStefano, PennDOT's bridge engineer for District 9, says the damage was found during an inspection that's part of a major rehabilitation plan scheduled for 2015. During the inspection, they found deterioration in the floor system's connections of "stringers" that run along the length of the bridge and support the concrete deck.

The Port Authority faces a projected $64 million deficit in its upcoming fiscal year. That's due, in part, to an ongoing transportation funding crisis on the state level. To try and stay afloat in the face of such cuts, a plan has been put forth that would dramatically reduce service in Allegheny County and raise fares on remaining service. These, said Port Authority officials, will be very different from cuts that were made in March. At that time, they said, people at least had other options — which will likely not be the case this time.

Three Rivers Locks & Dams in Need of Repair

Jan 16, 2012

The head of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission said massive infrastructure upgrades are needed for the Three Rivers' locks and dams.

In an appeal for funding made to the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee last week, Port Commission Executive Director James McCarville said each river has its own problems.

Landslides on McArdle Roadway Persist

Jan 13, 2012

The hillside continues to crumble away in Mount Washington near the LeMont Restaurant. Yet another landslide shook the area on Wednesday night. The mountainside repairs are taking longer than originally thought.

The incident closed Grandview Avenue for some time, while the P.J. McArdle Roadway is still closed to traffic.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett will announce a plan to inject new revenues into the state's dilapidated transportation system in his February 5 budget address, according to a top administration official.

At a hearing on Wednesday, Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch said that the governor still must decide which funding recommendations he'll take from the report issued by his Transportation Funding Advisory Commission last summer.

The Pennsylvania Auditor General said that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has seen its long-term debt more than double since state lawmakers approved legislation requiring the commission to provide infrastructure funding to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and that is hurting the Commission's ability to operate.

Auditor General Jack Wagner said that the agency's debt has ballooned from $2.6 billion to $7.3 billion since Act 44 was passed in 2007.

Drunk Driving Causes Holiday Woes

Jan 3, 2012

State police say that driving under the influence was a problem on the roads over the New Year's holiday.

Between December 30th and January 2nd, troopers investigated more than 500 crashes in Pennsylvania. 79 were alcohol-related.

Spokesman Sergeant Anthony Manetta says that the numbers show that drunk driving and not wearing a seat belt are still problems.

Major Road Construction in Pittsburgh in 2012

Jan 2, 2012

Whether traveling east, west, north, or south, into or out of the city of Pittsburgh, motorists will likely be impacted by major roadwork in 2012. PennDOT District 11 (Allegheny and Beaver Counties) has at least three multi-year construction projects on the schedule for the new year: Route 28, Crosstown Boulevard/Veterans' Bridge, and the Squirrel Hill Tunnels on Interstate 376.

PennDOT spokesman Jim Struzzi said that the department is looking forward to another productive year after a busy 2011.

Prepare to Pay More for Tolls

Dec 30, 2011

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will be raising tolls by 10 percent for those who pay in cash in starting on New Years Day 2012. Those with E-Z Passes will see their rates remain the same.

Carl DeFebo, a spokesman with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission said that it is necessary to raise the tolls to offset costs. The way it is being done is intended to encourage more people to utilize E-Z Pass, which he says costs the comission four times less to process than a cash payment.

Army Corps: Lock and Dam Work to Continue

Dec 26, 2011

Army Corps of Engineers Deputy District Engineer Jeanine Hoey is not quite sure what the new year holds for the Pittsburgh District. That's because their budget was just finalized and the details have yet to filter down.

"We probably have some work on some of our locks and dams. We have a little bit of work on some of our flood control structures, but probably not a significant amount … there'll be some work out at East Branch Dam also," explained Hoey.

She says that the amount of work they do each year varies.

Starting Tuesday, drivers under the age of 18 will face more stringent requirements for obtaining a driver's license, and more restrictions when they first get one.

The new law adds 15 hours of supervised, behind-the-wheel training for driver's license permit holders younger than 18. That brings the total to 65 hours. Ten of those additional hours must be completed after dark, and five of them in poor weather conditions.

Free T Rides to the North Shore

Dec 21, 2011

Passengers will be able to ride the T to the North Shore for free when the Port Authority opens the tunnel under the Allegheny River next year. The Stadium Authority of the City of Pittsburgh voted today to split the cost of underwriting the service with Alco Parking.

The deal extends the free downtown zone to the North Side T Station, to be located at the West General Robinson Street Garage.

Under the agreement, the Stadium Authority and Alco would pay Port Authority a combined $160,000 in the first year of operation, with a $5,000 bump in each of the next two years.

The Allegheny Regional Asset District has approved $100,000 in funding for a project that will better link downtown Pittsburgh to the region's trail system.

The Mon Wharf Switchback Ramp will slope down from the Smithfield Street Bridge to the Mon Wharf Landing park and trail. The completed project will allow cyclists easy access in and out of the golden triangle, Point State Park, and the Great Allegheny Passage. The Allegheny Passage is an interstate trail system running 150 miles between Pittsburgh and Washington D.C.

On Monday, the Three Rivers Center for Independent Living, an advocacy group for those with disabilities, held the first of what it hopes will be several forums on improving transportation options for people with disabilities in the Pittsburgh region. The focus will be on requesting that taxi cabs comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

DUI Crackdowns Set for Holidays

Dec 9, 2011

PennDOT is reminding people not to get behind the wheel impaired this holiday season. In 2010, there were more than 12,000 DUI crashes and over 52,000 arrests in Pennsylvania.

Steve Cowan, Safety Press Officer for PennDOT District 11 (including Allegheny, Beaver, and Lawrence Counties), said police will be out looking for drunk drivers now through New Year's Day.