The Port Authority of Allegheny County approved shifting $1.56 million dollars from its capital budget to add to the amount needed to study a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line between downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland.
Port Authority Chairman Bob Hurley said an initial engineering and environmental study is a critical part of the process.
“If this moves forward there would have to be funding, most likely, from the federal government to pay for a fair amount of this,” said Hurley. “You cannot apply to the federal government for funding until you have done a 30 percent design of your preferred routes and you’ve also done an environmental impact study.”
The environmental impact study will look at possible effects of a BRT line such as noise, pollution and effects on existing businesses, homes and neighborhoods. The engineering study would look at best routes and how traffic would be affected. The Port Authority has been looking to cities such as Denver and Cleveland as models.
“They [BRTs] are in many different cities,” said Hurley. “We actually have a BRT, people don’t think of it as that, which is the East Busway – it functions as a BRT, but we have not seen the development around it.”
The hope for a downtown to Oakland BRT is that development such as apartments, shopping or some mixed-use combination, would pop up along the route.
The reallocation of funds brings the total available for the studies to $3 million; an additional $1 million is still needed. There is no set timeline in place, but Hurley said the environmental and engineering study is not quick.
“That study takes roughly 22 months to conduct, so we would be looking to finish the study and the environmental impact statement, then look to apply to the federal government for potential funding to build a BRT in August 2016,” said Hurley.
The $1.56 million was shifted from a fund for the North Braddock Avenue painting and repair project, which still has $3.34 million, and is expected to still be completed.