Development & Transportation

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

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.

daveynin / Flickr

Recently Pittsburgh debuted a substantial amount of new bike lanes. Many cyclists are celebrating the changes, but those who don’t bike may be scratching their heads. Why is bike infrastructure beneficial for a community? Who benefits? What about the costs?

We’ll speak with Ngani Ndimbie, Communication Manager of Bike Pittsburgh, and Jeremy Waldrup, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, about how bike infrastructure impacts communities -- regardless of whether you bike or not.

For more on Bike PGH's "Better Bikeways" vision, visit here.

For Joe Wos's op-ed rejecting Pittsburgh bike culture, go here, and then jump back to Bike PGH for his change of heart.

AAA Study: Hands-Free Tech Is Not Always Risk-Free

Oct 8, 2014

“Not all voice activated systems are created equally,” according to Bevi Powell, AAA’s East Central Senior Vice president.

A study conducted by AAA finds three out four drivers believe their hands-free technology is OK to use while driving, however many systems are actually more of a distraction than they think.

“The problem is when you’re distracted mentally, or you’re cognitively distracted then you’re taking your mind off of what you should be concentrating on and that is operating your vehicle safely,” said Powell.  

The state is hoping to partner with municipalities across the state to improve traffic signals that will lead not only to better traffic flow but also to added energy savings.

PennDOT will use Act 89 funds to support its “Green Light-Go” program.  The act sets aside $10 million for signal improvements in the current budget.

P3 Approves Compressed Natural Gas Fueling Stations

Sep 30, 2014

Pennsylvania’s Public-Private Partnership (P3) Board has approved a project to develop compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations at public transit agencies around the state with the expectation that the public would be able to access the fuel. 

Despite importing 75 percent of its natural gas just five years ago, Pennsylvania has become a net exporter of the fuel for the first time in more than 100 years.

Two Public Utility Commission Administrative Law judges may have recommended that the full Commission deny Uber’s application for a permanent license, but the ride sharing company doesn’t need to slam on the brakes quite yet.

“After weighing the evidence in the cases of the Uber applications that were before the Commission, our administrative law judges wrote recommended decisions addressing each of the issues in the case,” Denise McCracken, PUC Deputy Press Secretary, said. “These recommended decisions are denying the applications by Uber.”

Union Blames I-279 Bus Crash on Mechanical Failure

Sep 25, 2014

The Port Authority of Allegheny County thinks the driver is at fault, but the union thinks the Sept. 22 bus crash on Interstate 279 that injured a driver may have been a result of mechanical failure.

Steve Palonis, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, said that after reviewing video footage and talking to drivers Juliann Maier and Thomas Frauens, there is no indication of reckless driving.

Pennsylvania’s highways among the worst in the nation, according to a report released Thursday by a Los Angeles nonprofit.

The commonwealth has dropped from 40th to 41st in “overall highway performance and cost effectiveness,” according to the Reason Foundation’s 21st annual highway report.

David Hartgen, lead researcher and professor of transportation studies at the University of North Carolina, said the state’s high percentage of deficient bridges, narrow rural lanes and a high fatality rate has caused its rankings to slip.

Driving in Pittsburgh is notoriously difficult, and increased deer collisions are only going to make it more difficult for people to avoid crashes, especially as deer activity starts to rise during the fall.

Pennsylvania has climbed the chart for highest projected deer crashes, rising from number five, now to number two, according to the 2014 State Farm Deer Collision Report which predicts the number of crashes that will happen during the fall season.

Flickr user tadekk

Seventeen more bus routes went live Thursday in Allegheny County’s Real Time Bus Arrival System, which gives riders instant information about where their Port Authority buses are.

The system is now up and running for a quarter of the 102 bus routes in the county, and another 15 routes will go online in the next two weeks. County executive Rich Fitzgerald said all routes will be available on the system by the end of the year.

With thousands of cyclists gathering in Pittsburgh for this week’s Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place Conference, the Pittsburgh International Airport has installed an area where riders can disassemble and reassemble their bikes before and after their flights.

The assembly station has tools, wrenches and an air pump for cyclists who come and go from the airport on two wheels. State Sen. Matt Smith, who serves on the board of the Allegheny County Airport Authority (ACAA), said the station shows “an innovative approach to multimodal transportation.”

Thousands of bike enthusiasts from around the country have pedaled their way into Pittsburgh – or most likely travelled by other means – for the 18th annual Pro Bike Pro Walk Pro Place Conference.

Tuesday’s discussion focused on Bike Share programs, which provide public bicycles for people to rent and have been implemented in cities all over the world.

Jacob Mason, the transport research and evaluation manager from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, presented data he gathered while researching what he considers “successful” systems.

Walk, Run, Bike to Cycling Conference Next Week

Sep 5, 2014

An estimated 1,000 city planners, transportation engineers, public health advocates, elected officials, and community leaders are expected to attend The Pro Walk/ Pro Bike/ Pro Place Conference beginning Monday, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, and some appropriately will arrive by bike.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

Some of Pittsburgh’s busiest bridges are about to become bicycle friendly.

Cycling enthusiasts, along with city and Allegheny County officials, announced Wednesday the addition of short- and long-term bike lanes to the Andy Warhol, Roberto Clemente and 10th Street bridges.

Two temporary lanes will be painted on the Andy Warhol Bridge following rush hour Thursday morning, four days before the Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference is set to kick off at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

The lanes will remain open through Sept. 13 to aid in conference transportation.

City to Install Penn Avenue Bike Lane

Sep 3, 2014

Cyclists in Pittsburgh can worry about one less street when it comes to rider safety.

The city is set to install a protected bike lane Wednesday on Penn Avenue between 6th Street and 16th Street. The lane will feature a two-way cycle track with bollards separating riders from automobiles.

“We expect it to really improve the safety for those riders,” said Ngani Ndimbie, communications manager for cycling advocacy group BikePGH. “To really change the way that they experience the street and allowing them to be able to feel really comfortable on their bikes.”

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