Transportation news

Monongahela Lock and Dam 4 at Charleroi Closes

Jul 16, 2012

Mon River traffic shut down this morning for scheduled repairs to Lock and Dam 4 at Charleroi, which should be completed August 3rd.

This work is patchwork, not the construction of new locks that was supposed to be completed in 2004 but now may not see funding until 2024 or 2025, according to Dan Jones of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Two Thirds of Mon Fayette Expressway Completed

Jul 16, 2012

Today marks the opening of another section of the Mon/Fayette Expressway that completes the 18-mile stretch between Uniontown and Brownsville. The 4-year long project makes 60 miles of continuous highway from I-68 in Morgantown, WV to Route 51 in Jefferson Hills.

Tom Fox, Public Information Manager for the Western Region Office of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, said this portion of the highway extends from U.S. Route 119 in Uniontown to Route 88 in Washington County.

PAT Cuts Costing Taxpayers

Jul 13, 2012

With the Port Authority of Allegheny County's scheduled service cuts in September looming, an initiative of the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, GoBurgh, found the cuts could be costing taxpayers more than was thought.

Chris Sandvig, GoBurgh's Regional Policy Director, said the group anticipates the cuts will cost taxpayers in Allegheny County as well as the surrounding counties hundreds of millions.

"Really that's based upon car ownership of transit riders," Sandvig said.

Starting Monday morning July 9, the bridge/ramp from Bedford Avenue to southbound I-579 (Crosstown Boulevard) will be closed for long-term rehabilitation. The work will include expansion dam replacements, deck and parapet replacements, and the resetting of bearings. This is part of a larger investment to improve heavily-traveled roadways in the city.

"A $36 million investment into the infrastructure into the downtown Pittsburgh area, some big restrictions will be occurring as the month of July progresses," said Jim Struzzi, a spokesman for PennDot District 11.

In 2008, a proposal by then Governor Ed Rendell to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike for 75 years to a Spanish-U.S. consortium for $12.8 billion gained no traction with lawmakers. The privatization effort was an attempt to come up with funding alternatives to pay for mounting road, bridge and mass transit costs.

Four years later, the legislature has approved and Governor Tom Corbett has signed House Bill 3 that's aimed at creating public-private partnerships (P3's).

A 6,000 horsepower tugboat can lug around quite a bit of freight.

But when the AEP Legacy docked along the North Shore of the Allegheny River today, its most precious cargo was a message of warning.

"The infrastructure on the inland river system is in a dire state of repair," said Gretchen Chamberlain of AEP River Operations. Her company ships fourteen million tons of goods in and out of Pittsburgh every year, everything from glass and grain to coal and steel.

DUI Enforcement Increases For Independence Day

Jun 29, 2012

With the Fourth of July holiday approaching, PennDOT, along with several local police departments and the PA DUI Association, have launched the "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign. The effort aims to keep families safe while traveling over the holiday.

Steve Cowan, a Safety Press Officer for PennDOT, said the crackdown is now underway and will continue through July 8.

Sunday Marks Hike in Port Authority Fares

Jun 28, 2012

For a zone one ride on an Allegheny County Port Authority bus or train, the one-way fare will increase by 25¢ and zone two fares will increase by 50¢ starting July 1st. Ticket and pass prices are also due to increase on Sunday.

Heather Pharo, PAT spokesperson, said even though most fares are increasing, some will remain the same.

"Transfers are going to continue to be $1 for a full fare," Pharo said. "The T surcharges on the cash fares will continue to be 75¢ for full fare."

Wozniak: End Emissions Testing

Jun 25, 2012

State inspections could soon be a bit less expensive if a Johnstown-area lawmaker has his way. Pennsylvania State Senator John Wozniak (D-Cambria County) is co-sponsoring legislation that would exempt new cars and alternative fuel vehicles from emissions inspections for 10 years.

"It's time to update our automobile mandates to reflect reality," said Wozniak. "When emissions inspections were enacted, there were still a lot of old, polluting cars on the road. Today, nearly all cars pass the emissions test and drivers have to pay up to $50 to be told what they already know."

PAT Board Approves Budget

Jun 22, 2012

The Port Authority of Allegheny County board members today approved a $333,071,733 operating budget for fiscal year 2012-13. It includes 25¢ fare increases effective July 1. The new budget is $37 million less than the current year's.

The budget also assumes a 35% service cut that includes the elimination of 42 routes, plus most weekend and weeknight services, effective September 2nd.

"Time is running out," Bland said. "We continue to work with state, county and union leadership on a solution in the hopes of avoiding the September service reductions."

Members of the Dutch Cycling Embassy are in Pittsburgh for a couple of days to examine the Forbes and Fifth corridors in Oakland, and to offer insight into how the roadways could be made more bicycle-friendly.

"It's a tough challenge, you have to be honest, because the car culture here is much more dominant than it is in Europe, but at the same time there are very promising developments. The trends for cycling in the U.S. are going up," said Tom Godefrooij, senior policy advisor for the Dutch Cycling Embassy.

PAT CEO Suggests Solutions

Jun 15, 2012

Slightly more than half of downtown Pittsburgh's workday commuters use public transportation to get to their employer's location. Some of Pittsburgh's largest employers downtown report as much as 70% of their workers using public transit.

Conventioneers at Pittsburgh's International Bridge Conference are tackling the challenge of the nation's deteriorating infrastructure with new innovations in bridge-building.

Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez said one new, cost-effective trend is the use of prefabricated materials. Bridges are assembled off-site, then installed in a matter of weeks. Mendez compared "prefab" construction to the use of Lego building blocks.

"T" Stops to be Eliminated

Jun 12, 2012

Some commuters will have to re-route starting June 25th because of changes to 13 stops of Pittsburgh's light rail system operated by the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT).

Signs are now posted at the Traymore, Coast, Boustead, Neeld, Kelton, Martin Villa, Smith Road, Santa Barbara, Mine 3, Lindermer, Center, Latimer, and Sandy Creek "T" stops to inform riders that the rail will not stop at those locations starting the last Monday of June. The signs suggest alternate stops to use.

With the current federal transportation funding plan scheduled to expire July 1, speakers at the International Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh on Monday declared a crisis situation in the maintenance and repair of the nation's dilapidated bridges.

Gas Prices Down Again

Jun 11, 2012

Average retail gasoline prices in the Pittsburgh area have fallen in the last week to an average of $3.54 per gallon, two cents lower than the national average. That's lower than last year and down about 23¢ from last month.

Patrick DeHaan is a senior petroleum analyst in Chicago for, which tracks gas prices at 140,000 stations in the U.S. and Canada. He said prices are down because recent jobs reports have thrown into question the whole economic recovery.

All this week, the Monongahela Lock and Dam 4 at Charleroi will be closed periodically as crews install massive panels on the lower river guard walls.

"It's going to cause some delays with river traffic, but it won't be closed the entire time. There will just be intermittent closures. Any recreational boaters should expect delays as commercial vessels will have priority during that time," said Dan Jones, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A local lawmaker's push to allow mass transportation providers easier access to Allegheny County has made it to the governor. House Bill 10 passed the Pennsylvania Senate Tuesday on a 27-21 vote. The same measure moved out of the House on a 118-81 vote last year.

Alternative Fuels Education Day in Harrisburg

Jun 4, 2012

Representatives of Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture), the PennFuture Energy Center and alternative fuels businesses gathered in Harrisburg today to host Alternative Fuels Education Day. The event included exhibits and presentations in the capitol building's East Wing Rotunda, while electric, natural gas, and biodiesel vehicles were parked outside on Commonwealth Avenue.

A group of state Senators has launched an effort to call Pennsylvania lawmakers back to Harrisburg this summer to grapple with transportation issues. State Sen. Mike Stack (D- Philadelphia) is circulating petitions calling for a special session this summer focused only on transportation issues.

To convene the session, half of the members of both the House and the Senate must sign the petitions.

"I know if folks are being realistic about this issue we can get those signatures," said Stack.

In an ongoing effort to ensure the light rail system runs efficiently during busy times, the Port Authority of Allegheny County is taking several steps including calling back workers who were laid off last year. Port Authority CEO Steve Bland told the Board of Directors at their monthly meeting, the loss of about 135 employees in recent months was a contributing factor to problems with the North Shore Connector earlier this month.

Parkway West Traffic Ranks Among U.S.'s Worst

May 23, 2012

Even the most "livable" city has its problems. The Parkway West's (I-376) stretch from Green Tree to the Fort Pitt Tunnel is the ninth worst traffic corridor in the nation according to the National INRIX Traffic Scorecard.

Of the 162 corridors INRIX evaluated across the country, Pittsburgh's problem area is the only one outside of New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to make the worst-10 list.

State Funding Could Prevent ACCESS Cuts

May 17, 2012

A bill in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives would allow the Port Authority of Allegheny County to apply for special funding from the state to avoid cuts planned for its ACCESS paratransit program.

Sponsoring Representative Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) said his bill would make the Port Authority eligible for up to $3.7 million for ACCESS. The money would only supplement PAT's total budget for paratransit services.

Port Authority CEO Steve Bland issued a personal apology to all riders who were affected by last weekend's North Shore Connector Delays.

"Without a doubt everyone at Port Authority, from our rail operators to our operations management, from myself and our board of directors, think that was inexcusable and cannot be allowed happen again," he said.

Turnpike Speed Limit Boost Bill Heads to House

May 9, 2012

Motorists may have the option of going a full five miles per hour faster on the Turnpike, if one state House proposal is approved. The plan would raise the roadways upper limit from 65 to 70 miles-per-hour.

The 70 miles per hour speed limit idea is a bit of a throwback. In fact, the Turnpike was something of a wild west in its early days.

Business Leaders Call for PAT Funding Solution

May 3, 2012

Representatives of Pittsburgh's business community are warning state legislators that local companies would be seriously hurt by the Port Authority of Allegheny County's plan to cut service by 35%.

The Port Authority plans to drop 46 of its 102 routes in September, a necessary response to its $65 million budget deficit. The authority went through a similar round of cuts last year.

Beginning of the End for the Port Authority?

Apr 27, 2012

In the 48-year history of the Port Authority of Allegheny County, never has it faced a bigger decision and potentially even bigger fallout.

The PAT board of directors reluctantly voted Friday to cut service by 35%, which officials said would result in a loss of at least 40,000 of its 225,000 riders.

Some Young Drivers Ignoring Seat Belt Laws

Apr 24, 2012

New research has shown that novice teen drivers who live in states with so-called "secondary enforcement" seatbelt laws are less likely to use the life-saving devices than those in "primary enforcement" states.

A primary seatbelt law allows an officer to stop a vehicle and issue a citation to the person simply for not wearing a seatbelt. 33 states, including Pennsylvania, have primary offense seatbelt laws.

17 states have secondary offense seatbelt laws that only allow for a citation to be issued if the driver is stopped for a primary violation, such as speeding.

Eight Times More Likely To Pass a Deficient Bridge than a McDonald's

Apr 20, 2012

A crowd gathered Friday under the 28th Street Bridge, which links the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Polish Hill and the Strip District, as Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner declared Pennsylvania has "the worst bridges in the country."

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development has released a report touting the economic benefits of converting fleets to natural gas. ACCD spokesman Ken Zapinski said the cost differential between oil and natural gas is setting records. "In terms of the price differential, and based on new reserves coming online for natural gas," Zapinski said, "the projections from the Energy Information Administration are that gas is going to stay significant for decades to come."