Development & Transportation

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

The not-yet-approved Clean Vehicle Corridors Act is the most recent of the many federal and state efforts to push for the use of alternative fuel vehicles in the United States.

On June 22, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) re-introduced his bill, first introduced in 2013, which would allow the Department of Transportation to establish clean vehicle corridors along interstates nationwide. The corridors would provide spaces for fueling and charging stations, travel plazas, rest stops and other roadside infrastructure.

WestPA31 / Flickr

  The nearly 1,000 bright yellow emergency call boxes along the Pennsylvania Turnpike could disappear soon, thanks to the prodigious growth of cell phones and House Bill 1335.

State Rep. John Lawrence’s (R-Chester) bill would amend state law, which currently requires the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to provide and maintain emergency call boxes for turnpike drivers. The amendment, if passed, would eliminate this requirement.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Port Authority of Allegheny County officials are considering charging up to a $5 fee for their credit card-like ConnectCards to help offset more than $1 million already incurred to purchase and support their use.

More than 350,000 ConnectCards have been distributed for free since they began replacing paper passes and tickets in 2012. Spokesman Jim Ritchie said the authority swallows about $2.95 per card.

The proposed $5 charge would make the program more sustainable, he said.

BikePGH

Pittsburgh is putting more capital budget dollars into bicycle lanes and infrastructure this year than it has in recent memory, but it’s still not enough to accommodate the growing number of cyclists on the road, according to Patrick Roberts, Pittsburgh's principal transportation planner.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Up until Tuesday, Uber drivers were only allowed to drop off passengers at the airport, but they were not allowed to do pickups. As of late Tuesday afternoon, that will no longer be the case.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority announced a new policy which allows transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber, Lyft and Yellow Z to legally operate on airport property. TNCs connect passengers and drivers through apps.

Port Authority officials are proposing a budget of $397.8 million for FY 15-16, an increase of about $9 million from this year.

The 2.3 percent spending increase will not result in a hike to the base fare ($2.50), service cuts or job reductions.

“This is absolutely a really good sign for the Port Authority,” said transit agency spokesman Jim Ritchie.

In fact, the preliminary budget calls for a limited service increase in some routes to alleviate overcrowding.

Pennsylvania ranks worst in the country for structurally deficient rural bridges, according to a report released by the Road Information Program (TRIP).

The report called “Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland,” found that the nation’s rural transportation system is in need of improvements to roads and bridges, reducing high crash rates, and increasing connectivity and capacity. 

More than 500 structurally deficient bridges across Pennsylvania are slated for upgrades in the next year and a half.

PennDOT has contracted with Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners in what project manager Dan Galvin calls a unique public-private partnership.

“This is something that’s done quite a bit in Europe and Asia, but it is something rather unique in the United States,” Galvin said.

Amtrak CEO: Railroad Takes 'Full Responsibility' For Crash

May 15, 2015
AP Photo/Julio Cortez

As federal investigators try to find out why an Amtrak train that crashed in Philadelphia sped up in the last minute before it derailed, the railroad's top official said it takes full responsibility for the deadly wreck.

Joseph Boardman, Amtrak president and CEO, said in a letter on Amtrak's official blog Thursday that it is cooperating fully in an investigation into the accident that killed eight people and injured more than 200 this week.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Updated at 12:37 p.m.

State and city officials say 13 cars that derailed on a Pittsburgh freight train were empty and injured nobody.

Guy Costa, the city's director of operations, says the 13 cars derailed shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday. Costa says the entire train, not just the derailed hopper cars, was empty. John Poister, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection confirmed the information and says nobody was hurt.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Under the Liberty Bridge was the setting as former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell called on federal lawmakers to increase funding for the nation’s roads and bridges.

Rendell joined Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and the Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania in the request, which is part of a new campaign from the Associated General Contractors of America. It’s an advertising, community outreach and social media campaign.

Uber Seeks 1,000 New Pittsburgh Drivers

May 12, 2015

Ride-sharing magnate Uber wants to add 1,000 new drivers in Pittsburgh in the next 12 months as part of a larger effort to attract 50,000 new drivers in east coast cities.

Dubbed UberUP, or Urban Partnership, officials hope to reach into more diverse neighborhoods for new drivers and passengers. 

“We’re working with those organizations to understand what is the local community need in each of the different neighborhoods in Pittsburgh,” Uber Pittsburgh General Manager Jennifer Krusis said.

How The Port Authority Is Trying To Make It Easier To Ride The Bus

May 12, 2015
Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Have you ever tried to take a city bus without planning ahead? We're talking no Google maps, no bus tracker apps, no folded paper timetables. Just you, walking around a neighborhood, trying to catch the bus somewhere.

Probably not. Because in most places, that's not easy to do.

On Tuesday, the city of Pittsburgh and the Port Authority of Allegheny County held the first of two public meetings to gather input on the proposed Forbes-Fifth Corridor.

About a hundred people attended the meeting to listen and share thoughts on the potential transportation infrastructure in the 5th/Forbes Corridor which links Downtown to Oakland, running through Uptown and part of the Hill District.

At Penn State, Researchers Looking For The Next Big Thing In Infrastructure

Apr 27, 2015
Kate Lao Shaffner / WPSU

On the surface, Dr. Farshad Rajabipour's job might not sound that interesting. He's an associate professor of civil engineering at Penn State. And he studies concrete.

"It's actually a material that's used pretty much everywhere in the world," Rajabipour said. "It's so common that people don't notice it."

$12 Million In Street Paving Projects All On One Map

Apr 8, 2015
City of Pittsburgh

As part of its ongoing effort to make data more accessible to the public, the city of Pittsburgh has created an interactive map using the list of streets scheduled to be repaved this year.

Rather than reading down a long list of streets divided by often confusing intersections, a user can simply zoom in on a neighborhood and click the thoroughfares that are highlighted in grey.

Flickr user bbyrnes59

Transportation advocates in Pittsburgh and more than 100 other American cities are joining forces to call attention to the fast-approaching expiration of surface transportation funding from the federal government.

Thursday is being billed as Stand Up for Transportation Day. Chris Sandvig, regional policy director from the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, said most people don’t realize that funding is about to dry up.

Flickr user Joseph Wingenfeld

The Port Authority of Allegheny County has been studying the prospect of running a rapid bus line through Uptown from Oakland to downtown for several years now, and though the project is still several more years from becoming a reality, city planners are bracing for a wave of development along the Fifth Avenue and Forbes Avenue corridors.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Just two years ago, your options for getting a ride in Pittsburgh were pretty much limited to public transportation, taxis, or for those in higher income brackets, executive car services and limousines.

But when ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft rode into town in with their slick mobile apps, quick response times and, in the case of Lyft, their hot pink mustaches, a sea change that had already taken hold in cities such as San Francisco and New York began closing in on the Steel City.

A recent survey by Erie Insurance found that drivers are doing everything from playing the guitar to public displays of affection while driving.

The survey asked about 1,900 people what kind of distractions they found other drivers doing, and what behaviors they were engaging in themselves.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

The Roberto Clemente Bridge will be closed starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday and will remain closed until April 10 to allow crews to do repairs and add a new feature.

“We are doing some deck repairs out there, we’re replacing some drainage on the bridge and we’re also installing bike lanes on the bridge that will go across the bridge and tie into the bike lanes that are currently on Penn Avenue,” said Michael Dillon, deputy director of Public Works for Allegheny County.

Via: Justdrivepa.com

In the past five years, 128 people have lost their lives in work zone crashes, and PennDOT’s “#Slow4Zone” campaign hopes to put a face to road workers to prevent more lost lives.

The campaign starts during National Work Zone Awareness Week from March 23-27. During the week PennDOT will be posting stories on their Facebook and Twitter pages of workers who have been a victim of or seen work zone crashes.

Bicyclists and motorists who use the Birmingham Bridge’s northbound off-ramp to Oakland/ Forbes Avenue will need to learn an alternate route, following the ramp’s closure Monday due to construction.

The ramp closure is the first part of a multiyear, $28.5 million construction and repair project on the Birmingham Bridge that PennDOT intends to complete in the summer of 2017.

Creative Commons Flickr User: B.

According to the group Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS),  hundreds of lives could be saved if Pennsylvania strengthened its driving laws. The comments are part of the “Lethal Loopholes” report.

“We selected 15 of the most important highway safety laws… based on research that has proven that each one of these laws saves lives and prevents injuries on the road,” said Cathy Chase, vice president of governmental affairs.

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.

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