Development & Transportation

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

PennDOT

Some major Pittsburgh-area roadway projects are slated to either start or continue in the New Year, including work on the Liberty Bridge. Phase one of construction on the span started in 2015 and despite a structure fire that threatened to delay progress, it was competed in 2016.

“In 2017, work on the Liberty Bridge, what’s most important will be to complete the bridge deck overlay,” said Dan Cessna, PennDOT District Executive. “Folks have asked why they don’t have a smooth ride over the bridge and it is, in fact, because the final layer of concrete has not been placed yet.”

Mel Evans / AP

Pennsylvania is throttling back on one of its signature economic development programs.

The Philadelphia Inquirer  reports the administration of Governor Tom Wolf has sent rejection letters to Philadelphia, Coatesville and other municipalities that submitted applications to the Keystone Opportunity Zone program.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Moving people from one place to another means traffic: highway jams, crowded buses, and overworked subways. But one transit option remains blissfully serene: cable-propelled transit systems.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The Port Authority of Allegheny County board of directors approved a four-year contract with the union representing 2,200 bus and light-rail drivers, as well as mechanics Tuesday morning.

The special meeting lasted less than five minutes and came two days after members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 gave their approval to the agreement.

The contract includes an 11.25 percent wage increase for workers – 2.75 percent in the first three years and 3 percent in the fourth year.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

  The Pittsburgh Tenants Union has been "a long time coming," said Ronell Guy, executive director of The Northside Coalition for Fair Housing. The resident-focused community development organization is spearheading efforts to create a city-wide tenants union.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

Pittsburgh's Health Ride bike-sharing program has received a $200,000 grant to expand.

The program has 500 rental bikes at 50 stations in 11 of the city's neighborhoods. People can rent the bikes by the half-hour or by purchasing a membership for unlimited 30-minute or 60-minute rides for a monthly fee. The program has more than 40,000 registered users since it began in May 2015.

Erin Potts, marketing director for the Pittsburgh Bike Share nonprofit that runs the program, says the state grant will expand the program to 75 stations throughout the city.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

Tens of thousands of commuters who use light-rail trains to travel through Pittsburgh ran late this morning.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County blamed an unspecified computer glitch that caused significant delays. At one point, trains couldn't travel into Downtown or the North Shore on Wednesday morning.

Transit spokesman Jim Ritchie said the problem was based in the rail operating center in the South Hills.

Trains returned to normal service about 8:15 a.m., Ritchie said, but they remained off-schedule through the morning rush.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

The city of Pittsburgh has cited itself for owning run-down properties and a local judge isn't letting the city withdraw some citations, which officials say were mistakenly filed.

The city's Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections has ramped up citations against owners of eyesore properties, in hopes landlords will repair them.

Mapping Drones Help Keep Construction Work On Track

Dec 13, 2016
Identified Technologies

The logo may look like a drone, and the drone might get all the attention on the job site, but the leadership of Identified Technologies Corporation in Larimer says drones are not the focus of their growing company.

“We do use them as a tool as part of this work flow, but the drone has become the least interesting and least special part of the work flow,” said Dick Zhang, the company's CEO and founder.

They use commercially available drones and cameras to create two and three-dimensional models of construction sites to help monitor progress.

Snow Makes For Frowns On Northeast Roads

Dec 12, 2016
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

 

Snow and freezing rain made for messy commutes and closed hundreds of schools Monday as a snowstorm pushed into the Northeast.

The storm left nearly a foot of snow on the ground in some spots in the Great Lakes and upper Midwest before dumping up to about a half-foot across New York and northern New England. Boston, New York City and Philadelphia were spared.

Speeds were reduced on snow-packed roads and there were many school delays and closures from Michigan to Maine.

Despite 'Urban Renaissance' Suburbs Continue To Dominate In U.S.

Dec 10, 2016
Stockton Williams / ULI

 

The traditional narrative goes like this: After World War II, upper and middle class white families fled the inner cities for the suburbs. They were chasing the "American Dream" of white picket fences, two car garages and shopping centers you could drive to. The children of those Baby Boomers grew up, fought back and now, are moving back to the cities.

According to a new report from the Urban Land Institute's Terwilliger Center for Housing, the first part of that story is more true than the second part — so far.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority is paying for what will be the third round of environmental testing of the former Civic Arena site.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

Carnegie Mellon University will receive $14 million in federal funding to develop innovations in smart transportation, research and education, the school announced Tuesday.

Matt Slocum / AP

 

A retired Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission worker says executive-level managers are "out of touch" and that "jobs/promotions are filled by the politicians" — including positions created for unqualified workers.

Oh, yeah, Michael Stuban — the middle manager who filled out the scathing exit interview before he retired on Thanksgiving — hit "reply all," sending the emailed document to all of his more than 2,000 former co-workers.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Eric Luster grew up in a three-bedroom 1920s-era home on a quiet dead end street in Homewood. It was a self-described good childhood, but he thought he would have a better future in Atlanta, Ga., so he moved out of town to raise his five children.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority proposed mixing green and gray infrastructure to reduce the amount of raw sewage flowing into the Ohio River. 

The draft “Green First Plan” calls for millions of dollars in water retention systems that are both above and below ground. The systems would range from cement cisterns that hold water during rainy days to be processed later, to green spaces that can absorb storm water runoff into the ground.  

Why The Debate Over Drones All Goes Back To Avian Suicide

Nov 29, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP

 

The Federal Aviation Administration is due to release rules for drone operation over populated areas in a couple weeks. Interest is high in many sectors, including local government.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

Police in the Pittsburgh suburbs say they're investigating a woman's claims that an Uber driver made unwanted sexual advances.

Ross Township police said the woman reported the incident about 8:45 p.m. on Tuesday.

The woman says the driver started making advances while driving her to a restaurant. The driver allegedly stopped the vehicle, but the woman says she pushed him away and he continued the ride to the restaurant where she got out and called 911.

Police said the woman wasn't physically harmed.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

In the lobby of the Federal Building on Grant Street Downtown, Nic Woods emptied his pockets into a white plastic basket. It took him a while, as he was covered with clips and locks and wearing a large messenger bag.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

With a possibility of the region’s first snowfall this weekend, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials said they’re prepared for winter weather.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

*UPDATED: Nov. 28 at 12:25 p.m.

This summer, Pittsburghers wanting to fly to Europe can do so for as little as $99.

Bargain airlines Condor and WOW will offer low-cost, non-stop flights to Frankfurt, Germany and Reykjavik, Iceland, respectively. Condor will offer service twice per week throughout the summer, while WOW’s service will run four times per week, year-round.

WOW will offer some one-way tickets to Iceland for as low as $99, and travelers can continue to other European cities like Paris, Dublin, Berlin and London for $150. 

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

 Last week, about 20 people waited anxiously for the walk signal at the busy intersection outside Target in East Liberty. When the light changed, they danced into the crosswalk. As James Brown sang “Get on the Good Foot,” they spun, they shimmied, they high-fived.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

 

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has assessed a contractor more than $3 million in damages because a major Pittsburgh bridge was wholly or partially shut down for 24 days after a construction fire.

PennDOT says a spark from a blowtorch ignited plastic piping and a construction tarp on the Liberty Bridge on Sept. 2.

Contractor Joseph B. Fay Co. says it hopes to negotiate a lower amount of "liquidated damages" that accounts for the "hard work" the company did to limit the bridge closure and put the project back on schedule.

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads)

 After more than two years of contentious legal battles, Uber and Lyft may operate legally in Pennsylvania. On Monday, the Senate voted 47-1 to allow ride-hailing services to operate in the state — and to begin regulating them as their own transportation entity. Governor Tom Wolf plans to sign the legislation. 

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.

The Liberty Bridge Reopens ... But Not For Everyone

Sep 26, 2016
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.

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