Transportation
2:53 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

City Council Seeks Federal Grant for Passenger Rail

Pittsburgh is one tiny step closer to the installation of a passenger rail line along the Allegheny River.

Pittsburgh City Council has given preliminary approval to bills that would allow the Urban Redevelopment Authority to apply for and administer a $1 million federal rail improvement grant.

Sponsoring Councilman Patrick Dowd said the grant would be used to help make adjustments to the existing Allegheny Valley Rail Line for use as both a commuter rail service, and as an "urban circulator," as per the Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan announced last year.

"Having a commuter line running along the Allegheny Valley, and connecting up the Strip District and Lawrenceville and Highland Park and everything in between, is critical to the health and vitality of this community," said Dowd. "It's really the thing that we're missing here."

Working on the Railroad

Dowd said specifically, the grant would help pay for changes to the rail line at 48th Street.

"There's a rail spur there, and I think as we envision the future of this line, it would be an adjustment to that rail spur," said Dowd. "So, we're applying to this grant to help deal with that, and then with some adjustments to the rail line around 42nd Street, to deal with, I believe, a turnaround there."

Dowd said most of the funding needed would come from the company that owns the rail line.

An Expansive Vision

The Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan states the commuter rail service would bring in trains from stations in New Kensington and Greensburg, funnel into the city through Oakmont, and check in at a main hub in Lawrenceville.

Dowd said the goal is also to link the riverside railway to the existing "T" light railways in the Golden Triangle.

"That is what we will do; the question is, how will we do that?" said Dowd. "Where will that connection be made? What does that connection look like? Is it one rail line coming into a station, and another rail line coming into a station, and people have to trade lines (which is probably what will happen), or some variation on that?"

Looking to the (Near?) Future

Dowd said those questions and more are currently being addressed at the URA, with the help of a $1.5 million "Tiger" planning grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

He said it will take less than a decade for the city to realize its plans for passenger rail along the Allegheny.

"It's going to be a long process, but we have about a year to do this planning project, and then we'll apply for [additional federal] dollars," said Dowd. "I'd actually love to see it within the next five years."

Click here for a map of the proposed railway.