Development & Transportation

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

Pittsburgh Airport Now Accessible By Bicycle

Mar 20, 2012

Dozens of spandex-clad bicyclists pedaled to the airport via the newly-opened connection between the Montour Trail and Pittsburgh International Airport Tuesday. According to organizers, the Montour Trail is the longest suburban trail in the nation. Years ago area officials were tasked with connecting it to the airport. Now that it's complete, officials said an economic boost to the region will follow.

New Taxis to Focus on Downtown Pittsburgh

Mar 20, 2012

A new taxi fleet will allow Pittsburghers to hail cabs in the Golden Triangle, rather than calling a dispatch service. The "City Cab" service launched Tuesday with a fleet of six cars.

The white taxis are meant to focus on downtown Pittsburgh, but they'll also cart people to nearby neighborhoods like Oakland, the South Side, the North Side, and Mount Washington.

The Pittsburgh Transportation Group launched the fleet at a total cost of about $250,000, including roughly $12,500 for each car.

North Shore Connector Wins Construction Award

Mar 20, 2012

The builders of the $523 million North Shore Connector, which is to open to the public Sunday, have won the Alliant Build America Award.

North Shore Constructors, a consortium of contracting firms, is among 16 recipients to have "demonstrated the very best when it comes to building a better America," according to the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America, the group bestowing the honor.

AGC spokesman Brian Turmail said the complexity of the connector project impressed the judges.

Pedaling Pittsburgh History

Mar 20, 2012

Highway Fatalities Decrease, Setting Record

Mar 16, 2012

Last year marked the second-lowest number of highway fatalities since the 1940s. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reports that there were 33 fewer highway fatalities in 2011 than in 2010.

Erin Waters, PennDOT spokesperson, says that 90 percent of highway crashes are caused by driver behavior, and although the budget is tight, they continue to enforce safe driving procedures.

Green Boulevard Meeting to Highlight New Designs

Mar 14, 2012

Consultants working on the Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard will unveil their designs during a meeting Thursday in Lawrenceville.

The Green Boulevard will span the six and a half mile stretch of land that is currently the Allegheny Valley Railroad Right-of-Way. It could include riverfront park access, neighborhoods, kayak and boat access, and a multi-use rail corridor capable of transporting people to offices or entertainment downtown.

Squirrel Hill Tunnel Restrictions Begin Monday

Mar 14, 2012

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will begin nighttime restrictions of the inbound Squirrel Hill Tunnel on Monday. It's part of the preliminary stage of a two-year, $49.5 million rehabilitation project.

District Executive Dan Cessna said crews will focus on the inbound half of the structure this year. In 2013, the repair work — and accompanying traffic restrictions — will move over to the outbound side.

North Shore Connector Almost Set to Roll

Mar 13, 2012

The Port Authority of Allegheny County is putting the finishing touches on its project to extend light rail service to the North Shore.

The $523 million "North Shore Connector" is set to run its first public train on Sunday, March 25.

Across the state, drivers should be putting away their cell phones to focus on the road, and will now likely catch sight of signs reminding them of the cost of getting caught texting while driving.

Beginning this week, 60 billboards will run for at least four weeks to inform drivers of the new statewide ban on drivers' texting which went into effect March 8. 35 states and Washington, D.C. prohibit drivers from texting.

Brian Newbacher, public affairs director for AAA East Central said many are outspoken against texting while driving, but they don't always act.

Citing a lack of details and a track record of sub-par management of Pittsburgh International Airport, the Allegheny Institute, a conservative think tank based in Mt. Lebanon, is questioning the Allegheny County Airport Authority's bid to run Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Authority is among six groups trying to win the contract. Institute Senior Research Associate Frank Gamrat said while they are all for privatization, "what makes us skeptical of the proposal is they're not starting in their own back yard first."

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.