transportation

Pittsburghers, your driving could use some improvement. At least that's according to Allstate Insurance Company’s ninth annual "Allstate America’s Best Drivers Report."

The Steel City ranked 22nd from the bottom out of 196 cities, based on Allstate claims data about car collision frequency.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

For drivers heading in and out of the South Hills in recent weeks, the daily commute has been trying at times.

Construction on the 5,888-foot-long Liberty Tunnel has prompted 24-hour closures of first the outbound side, then the inbound.

That's meant detours.

And while commuters making their way around the tunnel closures have likely seen workers on the north and south ends of the tunnel restoring concrete facades, much of the work inside the tubes has gone unseen.

The Andy Warhol Bridge will be closed to all vehicle and pedestrian traffic starting at 6 p.m. Thursday for sidewalk and deck repairs, according to the Allegheny County Department of Public Works. The bridge will remain closed through 6 a.m. on Monday.

The installation of the Knit the Bridge project is also planned for this weekend. The project is expected to be the largest “yarn bomb” ever in the United States. Installation will begin Saturday morning and be completed by Sunday evening.

The state could put weight limits on aging bridges across Pennsylvania as early as this fall as a direct result of the failure in Harrisburg to pass a transportation funding plan.

The limit would require certain vehicles to find detours around bridges.

90.5 WESA

Following a “bad weekend” with the collapse of his agenda, Governor Tom Corbett signed a nearly $29 billion state budget Sunday night.  Controversial issues including liquor privatization and allocations for transportation funding remain in the Legislature until the fall, prompting a close examination of these pressing topics and the motivations behind both parties in both the House and Senate.

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has announced a plan he says would spur growth of alternative fuel vehicle infrastructure.

The so-called Clean Vehicles Corridors Act would result in more fueling stations across interstate highways, thereby making it easier for alternative fuel vehicles to travel longer distances.

“The way it will work is the U.S. Transportation Department, in consultation with the Energy Department as well as other federal agencies, will designate highway routes where the development of an alternative fuel support system will succeed,” Casey said.

When it comes to money for fixing roads, bridges and mass transit, state House lawmakers are struggling to even get a plan out of committee.

What's clear is House Republican leaders want a transportation infrastructure funding plan that spends less than the $2.5 billion the Senate proposed. What's not clear is how they'll make the bill palatable to enough Republicans and Democrats to pass the bill out of committee, let alone the full chamber.

An effort to slap a $100 surcharge on speeding tickets to help fund mass transit in Pennsylvania looks to be dead in the water, as one House member said Wednesday.

The proposal is part of a $2.5 billion plan to fund roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure that has passed in the Senate. The surcharge revenue would be specifically routed for public transportation.

While waiting for the bus that takes you to work Monday morning, you might be surprised when it zips right past you.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) is eliminating nearly 430 stops along 36 bus routes beginning Sunday as the first of several phases of bus stop consolidations.

Spokeswoman Heather Pharo said PAT is only eliminating stops that receive little to no use.

“When I say little to no use, most of these stops were actually used by zero people, and we monitored them in fall of 2012,” Pharo said.

State lawmakers may take issue with making speeding tickets cost any more than they already do.

A proposal to tack a $100 surcharge on moving violations was the subject of questions at a Wednesday House Transportation Committee hearing on the $2.5 billion transportation funding proposal.

The revenue generated from the surcharge would be slated for mass transit, and with a number of rural House lawmakers already balking at funding mass transit systems, the proposal might be one of the least popular items in a bill full of unpalatable revenue generators.

Bicycle and walking enthusiasts took to the state Capitol steps Tuesday to urge lawmakers to maintain money set aside for lane and pathway planning in a transportation funding bill.

The state Senate's $2.5 billion transportation funding proposal includes $2 million for planning for pedestrian and bicycle lanes.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5/WESA

Governor Tom Corbett stood under Pittsburgh’s Liberty Bridge to discuss the need for more investment in road and bridge projects, as well as mass transit. This comes days after the Pennsylvania Senate voted to boost state funding for transportation systems by nearly 50 percent.

“We are moving in the right direction toward a transportation funding program that is sustainable, that is long-term, that is fair, and that is balanced,” said Corbett, “between my proposal and the one offered by Senate Bill 1, it means our roads and bridges will be safer, our economy more sound.

The state Senate has passed a transportation funding plan, after years of calls for action and months of legislative discussions.

By the fifth year of the plan's implementation, the state would be yielding $2.5 billion. The money would come largely from higher driver's license and vehicle registration fees, surcharges on traffic violations, and the removal of the cap on a tax paid by gas stations.

"Or as some people like to call them, user fees," said Sen. John Rafferty pointedly on the Senate floor Wednesday.

The advocacy group Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) plans to hold a rally on June 4 in the Capitol Rotunda to call for funding and better conditions for public transit in Pennsylvania.

PPT Community Organizer Helen Gerhardt said they plan on visiting the office of every state legislator to tell them why public transit is crucial.

“Many people don’t realize just how important public transit is to the urban tax base, which then supports the entire state budget including funds for roads and bridges,” Gerhardt said.

Gov. Tom Corbett is in call-to-action mode, urging passage of a transportation funding proposal for the second time in a week.

A $2.5 billion plan is expected to be passed by the full Senate within the next two weeks.

But the real question is whether House Republicans will vote for a bill that does things like hike driver’s license fees and uncap a tax paid by gas stations.

PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said he’s been going to each House lawmaker to explain what’s at stake.

Mark Nootbar / 90.5 WESA

The latest report from a Washington D.C.-based pro-transportation investment think tank finds the average Pittsburgh driver is losing $1,418 a year due to the poor conditions of the region’s transportation infrastructure and mass transit systems. 

The Road Information Program (TRIP) Policy and Research Director Frank Moretti said that comes in the form of gas and time wasted sitting in traffic congestion, accidents due at least in part to poor road conditions and design, and fuel inefficiency and undue wear and tear on vehicles due to bad road conditions.

A $2.5 billion transportation funding bill that would increase vehicle fees, moving violation fines, and lift the cap on a tax that could lead to higher gas prices has gained a key state Senate committee’s approval.

Money raised from the measure would be used to repair Pennsylvania’s aging roads and bridges, as well as mass transit, ports, and bicycle lane planning.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5/WESA

The Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway in Pittsburgh has been designated as only one of five in the nation that meet Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) standards. It has been awarded the Bronze Standard by the Institute for Transportation Development Policy out of basic BRT, bronze, silver or gold designations.

The chairman of the state Senate Transportation Committee is introducing a plan that would hike motorist fees and some traffic ticket surcharges as a way of coming up with $2.5 billion for transportation infrastructure.

The measure marks the first legislative follow-up to the governor’s $1.8 billion funding plan, which many in industry and the legislature deemed to be too small.

But Republican Sen. John Rafferty of Montgomery County is giving Gov. Tom Corbett credit for taking the first step to roll out a funding proposal in the first place.   

The long-awaited legislative follow-up to the governor’s own transportation funding plan is expected to be announced Tuesday.

Transportation Committee Republican Chair John Rafferty has been working on the issue for months, insisting that it won’t be a victim of what legislators refer to as linkage – trading votes on one issue for support on another.

Bruce Fingerhood

A local public policy group is asking the commonwealth to ask some hard questions before subsidizing AMTRAK's ride from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg on a train called The Pennsylvanian

The passenger rail train service has lost some federal funds, and is now looking to Pennsylvania for $5.7 million.

In a first-ever report, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation received high marks for 'safety' and 'accountability,' a middling grade in 'mobility,' and a poor assessment in terms of 'preservation and renewal.'

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