Development & Transportation

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

Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

 

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is trying to shame trucking firms and other commercial haulers into paying more than $1.5 million in unpaid tolls.  

One firm, Green Coast Logistics of South Plainfield, New Jersey, owes the bulk of that money, more than $678,000 stemming from more than 7,000 violations.

The violations occur when vehicles drive through EZPass lanes and don't have an electronic toll-paying device attached -- or don't have enough money in their EZPass account to cover the tolls.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 


To the left of her fridge, Zinna Scott can peer out her kitchen window on Rosewood Avenue in Homewood and see the two open, grassy lots where her neighbors once lived. It’s where she wants to build her dream house.

Matt Slocum / AP

 

A judge has ordered the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to pay a former worker more than $3 million after finding he was wrongly fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on agency practices.

Ralph Bailets sued the turnpike commission and two of its officials over his 2008 termination. He says he was dismissed for questioning a major computer contract, hiring practices and how large trucking firms qualify for E-ZPass discounts.

Prosecutors in 2013 used his testimony to file corruption charges against several agency officials.

PennDOT

 

When a construction fire damaged Pittsburgh's Liberty Bridge last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation closed it for 24 days to do repairs.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

The Liberty Bridge reopened on Monday to vehicles weighing less than nine tons.

“The bridge is good for cars, ambulances and pick-up trucks,” said PennDOT District Executive Dan Cessna. “It excludes buses, empty tri-axle trucks and heavier trucks than that.”

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

An empty, three-acre parking lot lies at the corner of Station Street and Euclid Avenue.

You can’t actually park there. Weeds grow in the cracked cement between lines of faded paint.

Waze Sets Out To Eliminate 'Tunnel Blindness' On Mobile Maps

Sep 22, 2016
Matt P. / Flickr

 

 

The popular navigation app Waze is putting a new twist on the phrase "tunnel vision." It's trying to ensure drivers relying on digital maps don't lose their way when their GPS signal disappears in tunnels.

Feds Preview Rules Of The Road For Self-Driving Cars

Sep 20, 2016
Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Obama administration officials are previewing long-awaited guidance that attempts to bring self-driving cars to the nation's roadways safely — without creating so many roadblocks that the technology can't make it to market quickly.

Niven Sabherwal / 90.5 WESA

Hobo doesn’t look like your typical bodyguard. With soft brown eyes and a dark chocolate coat, the miniature donkey is quiet, calm and blends in with the herd he protects. That is, until something threatening approaches.

“He’s never actually had to chase off a coyote or anything,” said Doug Placais. “But if a dog or anything comes up to the fence, he’s always ready to protect them. He stands alert.”  

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The sight was striking, the aesthetic futuristic. 

On the roofs of 14 self-driving Ford Fusions idling outside Uber's Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, 14 small cylindrical sensory devices spun in unison, each with 64 channels of laser beams collecting 1.4 million distance measurements per second.

Doug Kerr / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s auditor general is painting a no-win picture with his most recent audit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

While Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the turnpike is doing well when it comes to controlling spending and managing its money, he said there are structural problems in place that could eventually lead to the collapse not only of the turnpike, but also of much of the state’s transportation system.

WITF

The ticking departures board at Philadelphia's main train station could make its own exit soon. But just how long the letters will continue to flip and signal passing trains at 30th Street Station remains in question.

Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert says the plan to swap the Solari board with a digitized model is in its early design phase with no replacement timeline. A flipboard has directed station travelers for at least 35 years.

Tolbert says the model has grown obsolete, making it difficult to find replacement parts.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

A national transportation research group has estimated that completion of the 14-mile stretch of the Mon-Fayette expressway and the extension of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Busway would create nearly 21,000 jobs in the Mon Valley region and beyond.

Self-Driving Uber Cars To Carry Passengers Soon In Pittsburgh

Aug 18, 2016
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Uber's move to carry people with autonomous vehicles is not surprising, given the company's history of pushing into gray areas where there is little or no regulation, said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina professor who studies self-driving technology.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Construction crews across the state will complete almost $62 billion worth of roadwork from now through 2028.

The State Transportation Commission outlined its strategy to repair and improve southwestern Pennsylvania's network of roadways Thursday in its newly-updated 12-year plan.

The most ambitious of upcoming regional construction projects is likely the $491 million overhaul of I-70 in Washington and Westmoreland counties. Crews have already started to widen the roadway and improve ramps between the city of Washington in the west and New Stanton to the east.

Keith Srakocic / AP

A municipal authority that oversees Pittsburgh International Airport is considering downsizing the facility, which has seen significantly less passenger traffic since US Airways closed its hub there in 2004.

Allegheny County Airport Authority officials say they're considering reducing the number of gates and better promoting the area's economy, culture and innovation.

The authority is considering demolishing parts of the concourses.

Officials say the authority is working on a master plan that should be completed next year.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is in the midst of a series of “open house” meetings regarding the latest revisions of a plan to build a major toll road between Monroeville and the South Hills.

After meetings in West Mifflin and Oakland earlier this week drew hundreds of people, two additional meetings in Monroeville and Churchill next week will give residents another opportunity to question state officials about the final leg of the long-delayed Mon-Fayette Expressway.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

 

The Andy Warhol Bridge is about to undergo its most extensive rehabilitation since the early 1990s.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

Ride-hailing service Uber is expanding its reach in Pennsylvania.

The San-Francisco-based company says it will begin operating in the seven-county region surrounding Pittsburgh, including Washington, Greene, Westmoreland, Indiana, Armstrong and Butler counties Thursday evening.

The expansion also includes DuBois, Gettysburg, greater Williamsport, Johnstown and Altoona.

Company officials said the service will now cover 90 percent of residents in the state.

Uber allows people to use a smartphone app to book and pay for a car service.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Two major construction projects will cause long-term road closures in the North Shore area beginning this August. 

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Frontier Airlines announced it will end its service from Pittsburgh to Denver just one month after it started offering the flight.

Officials from Frontier Airlines and the Pittsburgh International Airport said the airline would discontinue flights to Denver in January on a seasonal basis, although the flights were not billed as seasonal when they began in June.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Bicyclists in Pittsburgh are reacting to a new billboard along Baum Boulevard in the East End, which tells drivers “Riders aren’t always in the right. But they are always fragile.”

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Transportation experts are urging elected officials nationwide to embrace the rise of driverless vehicle technology as an opportunity to improve city street grids.

Speakers at a forum in East Liberty Monday focused on city planning, equating the importance of driverless cars with that of the steam engine, electric grid and elevator, saying the technology would be commonplace within 50 years.

Sen. Judy Schwank

All kinds of signs can decorate a highway work zone. One local lawmaker wants to make sure at least one enforcing speed is taken more seriously.

Joseph LaQuatra, business manager of the Laborers’ Local No. 1058, which represents Pittsburgh highway workers, said signs for speed cameras make a difference. 

“All you see is break lights,” LaQuatra said, referring to drivers slowing down after spotting speed cameras in the 13 states where they're required. “People actually go the speed limit through the work zone. Up here (in Pennsylvania) … there’s no consequence.”

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Transportation Group's trademark yellow taxis will largely become a thing of the past as the company shifts resources toward its fledgling taxi service, zTrip, officials announced this week.

Though Pittsburgh Transportation Group will continue to operate about 10 yellow taxis at airport and hotel stands around Pittsburgh to prevent another company from taking over the brand, most of the company's 325-vehicle fleet will be painted gray and marked with the zTrip logo by mid-September.

"It's the end of an era," President Jamie Campolongo said.

Paul Sableman / Flickr

During his successful campaign for the Allegheny County Executive’s office in 2011, Rich Fitzgerald proposed the creation of a multi-county public transit system, touting potential cost-savings and improved service.

Five years later, the idea of merging local counties’ transit authorities is still years away from fruition, despite support across county lines.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Blue roadside signs reading “Bus Stop” could become a thing of the past as the Port Authority of Allegheny County begins its rollout of more robust bus stop signage this summer.

Starting in July, roughly 85 Downtown bus stops will be outfitted with signs that include route maps, bus schedules and frequency information. Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said the new wayfinding system will eventually be at all PAT bus stops in the county.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

In 1985, Carnegie Mellon University announced that its first driverless vehicle, Terregator, could make its way across a football field in about an hour.

Now, with CMU's fourteenth generation of automated vehicles, a silver Cadillac SUV, able to manage up to 70 miles per hour, state government officials are finally taking regulatory steps to prepare for what they describe as the inevitable rise of driverless vehicles over the coming decades.

Paul Sableman / Flickr

Bike Pittsburgh is releasing the sixth edition of its City Bike Map this week and organization leaders said the city has come a long way since the first edition.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx visited Pittsburgh Monday to get a first-hand report on the city’s bid for a $50 million federal transportation grant.

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