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Port Authority sets trio of meetings to address bus rapid transit concerns

Theresa Clift
| Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, 12:42 p.m.
A computer rendering of a bus rapid transit stop in Pittsburgh.
Port Authority of Allegheny County
A computer rendering of a bus rapid transit stop in Pittsburgh.

This story has been updated with a new date for the McKeesport meeting.

Port Authority of Allegheny County is holding a series of meetings in the Mon Valley to address residents' concerns about a planned bus rapid transit system.

Once "light rail on wheels" is up and running to link Oakland and Downtown, some Mon Valley riders will have to transfer on their way Downtown who don't have to today.

Riders on routes 71 A, B and D and route 61 A, B and C would be affected, Port Authority officials have said. Those routes serve Braddock, Duquesne, Swissvale, McKeesport, Homestead, Highland Park, East Liberty and elsewhere.

Riders have been raising concerns that transfers would increase the already long commute times for riders, and could hurt economic development opportunities there.

The riders asked the authority to hold meetings in the Mon Valley, since the only BRT meetings held so far were in Oakland, Uptown, Downtown and Greenfield/Squirrel Hill — areas the BRT will serve.

"At these upcoming BRT meetings, (Pittsburghers for Public Transit) will be urging the Port Authority to take the opportunity of the BRT to look at creating other routes that would allow Mon Valley riders to continue to be able to commute directly downtown, without transferring in Oakland," Laura Wiens, of the nonprofit said. "At a minimum, residents from these communities should not be forced to pay bus transfer costs to go downtown."

Riders with a ConnectCard must pay $1 to transfer . Those paying in cash must pay an additional full fare. The authority has not yet decided whether the riders who would have to start transferring when BRT launches will have to pay a transfer fee, said Adam Brandolph, Port Authority spokesman.

SCHEDULED BRT MEETINGS:

• Braddock: 6:30 p.m. Monday at The Avenue Apartments, 325 Braddock Ave.

• McKeesport: 7 p.m. Oct 16 at The Palisades, 2nd floor, 100 Fifth Ave.

• Duquesne: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at Duquesne City hall, 12 S. Second St.

On Sept. 8, officials submitted the first part of the BRT application to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Small Starts program, which would fund half the $195.5 million cost of the project, with state and local funds covering the other half.

President Trump's proposed budget would cut the funding for new transit projects.

If the funding is not cut, and the Pittsburgh project is chosen, construction could start in mid-2019 and could be up and running by 2021, officials say.

Small Starts is highly competitive and requires projects to go through a multi-year, multi-step process to be eligible for funds.

Officials previously estimated the project would cost $223 million, but the new estimate is dropped to $195.5 million.

Small Starts projects receive less than $100 million in federal funding.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669, tclift@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tclift.

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