Development & Transportation

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

FracTracker

A new report shows that about 4 million Pennsylvanians live within a half mile evacuation zone in case of a train derailment.

The report comes from PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center, an environmental advocacy group, and FracTracker Alliance, which makes maps and analyzes data from the oil and gas industries.

Motorists who use the I-376 Carnegie Interchange Ramps will soon have to kiss that exit goodbye until December. Starting Monday at 10 p.m. PennDOT will close the exit to begin work on three structurally deficient bridges.

“Overnight when they do the closure there will be …impacts on traffic, but after the interchange is completely closed and all lanes of traffic are restored we’ll actually improve traffic flow in that area,” said PennDOT District Executive Dan Cessna.  

PennDOT

Some Pennsylvanians will be receiving new driver’s licenses after PennDOT officials learned Wednesday a vendor error led to security flaws in more than 100,000 cards.

According to PennDOT, the laminate supplied by Morpho Trust USA and its subcontractor OpSec, did not include the correct hidden security image. Viewed under an ultraviolet black light, proper licenses show a row of keystones with the letters “PA.” The defective cards read “AP” instead.

The Canadian National Railway Co. is hoping to finish cleaning up and repairing a line nearly in Butler County two days after 27 cars carrying iron ore derailed.

The cars, which were part of a 71-car freight train, derailed about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday in Center Township, Pennsylvania. The accident scene, near Route 308, is about 35 miles north of Pittsburgh.

Railroad spokesman Patrick Waldron said the railroad hoped to reopen the tracks Friday afternoon, provided the cars and spilled cargo could be removed and the tracks repaired by that time.

Flickr user Jarrett Stewart

PennDOT is seeking public input on the results of a four-year study that analyzed possible improvements to passenger train service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.

Nearly two weeks after granting a two-year experimental license to Uber, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) did the same Thursday for Lyft, the other major ridesharing service in the state.

The commission voted 5-0 to approve Lyft’s compliance plan, which was mandated by the Dec. 18 order which granted an experimental license if Lyft demonstrated that it was meeting  specific conditions to ensure driver integrity, vehicle safety and insurance protections.

Parkway West Construction to Resume Soon

Feb 9, 2015

PennDOT officials and representatives of contractor Swank Construction will hold two public meetings this week to give information and answer questions about upcoming construction on the Parkway West.

The $72.83 million I-376 project began last summer and will resume next month. The plans call for major improvements to the parkway from I-79 to the Fort Pitt Tunnel including repaving, rebuilding and resurfacing shoulders, improving drainage, replacing guardrails and concrete barriers, adding road signs and rehabilitating bridges.

Google maps / Google.co

An estimated 19,000 vehicles cross the Greenfield Avenue Bridge each day, but commuters will have to find a new route later this year.

That’s because the bridge is being demolished and the replacement won’t be open until 2017. Prep work for the demolition is expected to begin in in mid-October.

The City’s Department of Public Works is hosting a public meeting Tuesday in which officials will reveal the new bridge’s official design.

Within the next three years, 558 bridges throughout Pennsylvania will be replaced.

PennDOT announced Monday that it had finalized the terms for its Rapid Bridge Replacement Project.

“The construction and some of the maintenance will cost roughly $899 million,” said PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt. “But we’re expecting to save a good bit for each bridge compared to if we were going through our typical process, and it’s happening much faster than it normally would.”

For the seventh consecutive year Pennsylvania turnpike tolls will increase on Jan. 4.

The 5 percent increase affects both EZPass users and cash payers, but the EZPass will still save customers about 35 percent. Right now a person traveling from Pittsburgh (Monroeville) to Breezewood pays $8.97 with an EZPass or $12.60 with cash, and these prices will rise to $9.42 and $13.23 respectively.

Major roadway projects were completed this past year in the Pittsburgh area, but several others will get underway or continue in 2015.

“2014 was a significant year,” said Dan Cessna, District 11 executive for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. “We completed the fourth phase of Liberty Tunnel. We completed Squirrel Hill Tunnels, and most significantly we wrapped up four years of construction on Route 28.”

  Travel is cheaper this year, with gas prices and plane tickets being less expensive than they have been in recent years, and this has led to AAA project a record breaking travel season.

“Well this year our holiday travel volume nationally and regionally broke all records, and we’ve been keeping track of this since 2001. So for the yearend holidays, which is Christmas and New Year’s, there’s going to be more people on the road than ever,” said Spokeswoman for AAA, Chelsea Pompeani.

The Public Utility Commission has approved with conditions the application by Lyft to offer ridesharing services statewide for two years.

“Those conditions mainly address the concerns the commission has been expressing all along that these companies are proving that they are using safe drivers and they are doing background checks on drivers, that the vehicles they are operating are safe, and that they have the proper insurance,” said PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher.

Members of Transport Workers Union of America’s Local 555 picketed Southwest Airlines at the Pittsburgh International Airport Tuesday, distributing flyers and holding signs as part of a larger protest involving 15 airports.

The union of grounds crew workers including ramp, operations and freight agents is in mediation with Southwest Airlines since the contract became amendable in June 2011. Under the Railway Labor Act, airline labor agreements do not expire, rather, they become amendable. Until the amendments are agreed upon, the previous contract is upheld.

A woman with more than two decades of air service experience was introduced Tuesday as the new CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority.

Christina Cassotis, 50, of Boston, will take over in January as CEO of the authority, which manages the Pittsburgh International Airport in Findlay and Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin.

Although she doesn’t see Pittsburgh becoming a hub for air traffic again, Cassotis said she wants to attract airlines to the city and add more nonstop flights.

Irina Zhorov / 90.5 WESA

This is the third story of a three-part series on the state's bridges.

About seven years ago, the Bridge Maintenance Engineer for the South Carolina Department of Transportation, Lee Floyd, was concerned about one of his bridge’s ability to hold up while a replacement was built. He placed sensors on the bridge to monitor how it behaved and found that actually he could keep it open without any temporary repairs.

The State of PA's Bridges, Part 2: Rebuilding Them Faster

Dec 9, 2014
Keystone Crossroads

This is the second story of a three-part series on the state's bridges.

Twenty-three percent of Pennsylvania's bridges are structurally deficient, and many need to be replaced. But between permitting, design, and construction, building a new bridge takes years.

That's why the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is trying to speed things up.

The State of PA's Bridges, Part 1: How Are They Holding Up?

Dec 8, 2014
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

This is the first story of our three-part series on the state's bridges.

If you drive in Pennsylvania, you've probably crossed a structurally deficient bridge. Maybe you're driving over one right now.

Pennsylvania has more than 30,000 bridges. Some span rivers, like the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, and others are much smaller, crossing rural creeks and highways. More than 6,000 of these bridges are structurally deficient. (We put together an interactive map of the state's structurally deficient bridges.)

Earlier this month the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission gave conditional approval to the ride-sharing service Uber to offer “experimental” service across most of Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, for two years.

One of those conditions is that Uber drivers must be insured for all three stages of the ride-sharing process: turning the app on and making yourself available for hire; transporting the passenger; and, dropping off that customer. 

So Erie Insurance is trying to fill the gap in coverage. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has released a draft of its long-range transportation plan and is asking for public feedback.

“This is a plan that looks far into the future to help set the vision and direction for where we want our transportation system to go,” said PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt. “So it goes beyond a list of projects or future enhancements. It looks at things like where we want to go as a whole.”

If you will be traveling the Pennsylvania Turnpike during this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, you’ll have company….lots of company.

The Turnpike Commission expects 2.7 million vehicles using the toll road from Tuesday until Monday December 1.

“The day before Thanksgiving is our single busiest travel holiday of the year,” says Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo. “We’re expecting more than a half million vehicles (Wednesday) across the turnpike system. “

Gas prices averaging below $3 per gallon could spur many Americans to travel this for Thanksgiving, which might cause some traffic delays, according to AAA.

Chelsea Pompeani, director of public affairs at AAA east central, says the best way to avoid the increased traffic is to leave a little early.

With the holiday season approaching, the Pittsburgh Parking Authority has voted to give the gift of free parking again.

During a board meeting Thursday, the Parking Authority board voted unanimously in favor to expand free parking to their surface lots on Saturday, November 29th. 

“We…are joining the city and their efforts to promote Small Business Saturday with free parking at all the meter(s) on both the street – the city has done – and the Parking Authority is going to do free parking at surface lots,” David Onorato, Executive Director, said.

After five years of reconfiguration and reconstruction, PA Route 28 reopens completely Monday.

The five-phase project, which started in 2009, rebuilt the road from Millvale to the North Side and cost $106,360,957, according to PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan.

“This project has been decades in the making,” he said. “The major features are grade separated interchanges rather than traffic signals at the intersections of the 31st and 40th Street bridges.”

He said removing the traffic lights should ease congestion along the roadway.

Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Works will conduct a pothole “blitz” beginning Monday.

Department director Mike Gable said they have been patching potholes from last winter all spring, summer and fall, but the window for the production and use of “hot mix” is closing soon.

“That’s the stuff you’d rather work with rather than the cold patch,” Gable said. “Last year we learned with the cold patch it’s a very temporary fix. The hot mix bonds better, stays in the hole better and we get longevity out of it.”

More than 112,000 vehicles run on compressed natural gas (CNG) in the United States, the majority of which are commercial fleets, according to the Department of Energy, and those motorists now have one more place to fill up in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission officials Thursday unveiled three CNG fueling stations at the New Stanton Plaza in Westmoreland County. It is the first of the turnpike’s 17 plazas to offer the alternative fuel and is only accessible for westbound travelers.

The Fort Pitt Tunnel closure is expected to cause major delays to motorists traveling outbound on the Parkway West (I-376) this weekend, November 14-17.

Beginning at 10 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 14, the outbound (westbound) Fort Pitt tunnel will be closed for the start of the $14.17 million tunnel ceiling removal project. It is schedule to reopen at 6 a.m. Monday morning, Nov. 17.

Engineers discovered a sag in the ceiling of the tunnel last March. PennDot determined repairs were needed as soon as possible to avoid any further damages.

In 2011, 29 Port Authority (PAT) bus routes were eliminated due to lack of funding, and some residents are questioning why the 2015 Allegheny County budget allocates PAT funds to build a PennDOT pedestrian bridge, instead of working to reinstate the old bus routes.

In 2009 a court ruling stated that the drink and car rental taxes could only be used for PAT expenditures , yet the $1 million bridge will be paid for with those taxes and built by PennDOT.

Multimodal projects ranging from improving barge docks to extending walking and biking trails are receiving a combined $84 million in grants from  Pennsylvania’s Act 89. In announcing the awards Tuesday for 86 projects in 35 counties, PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said the grants address a variety of transportation needs.

“People walk, they ride bicycles, they take public transportation, they ride passenger rail.   For the first time ever, we’re investing in every mode,” Schoch said.

Seven of the grant recipients are in Allegheny County including:

Route 28 outbound, heading away from the city, will be closed overnight through Saturday as workers begin the final push in a four-year project to streamline the artery that runs along the Allegheny River from the northeast.

The major construction, which eliminated traffic lights and created separate exit and entry lanes for the 31st and 40th street intersections, has meant ever-changing traffic patterns and lots of congestion. This last phase includes adjusting lanes, paving and removing and adding barriers.

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