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New Kensington commuter rail line study gets all-clear whistle

| Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, 11:19 a.m.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
A pond of water at the New Kensington Water Authority treatment plant Constitution Boulevard near Esther Avenue. FILE ART
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
The old railroad bed along Constitution Boulevard is obstructed by New Kensington Water Authority buildings near Esther Avenue on Thursday, October 3, 2013.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
A recently built tank at the New Kensington Water Authority treatment plant along sits on the old rail road bed along Constitution Boulevard near Esther Avenue on Thursday, October 3, 2013.

The New Kensington Municipal Authority agreed on Thursday to allow an engineering study of its property regarding a proposed commuter rail line.

Colleen Rozanc of Urban Innovations, the firm working with the rail line's developers, asked the authority to allow the study of its property along the Allegheny River near the Lower Burrell line. That property is where the authority's treatment plant is located.

Rozanc said Urban Innovations wants to have an engineering firm look at the property and determine the feasibility of building a rail link through it.

The link would run from the present end of the line at Ferry Street up along the river to where the new commuter line would start near the bottom of Craigdell Road in Lower Burrell on property owned by Gary Sukala.

That's where a station and commuter parking lot would be built to handle hundreds of commuters who would travel the rail line's 21-plus miles into Pittsburgh every day.

Rozanc said the plan would be to have commuters from the Allegheny County side of the river cross the Tarentum Bridge and turn left at the intersection onto the access road that runs between the Clarion Inn and the Giant Eagle parking lot to Craigdell Road.

At Craigdell, they would turn left and travel down a new, paved road that Sukala would build to the rail station.

“That would allow us to bring more commuters in from places like Sarver,” Rozanc said.

The authority condemned property owned by Sukala more than 20 years ago in order to build parts of its treatment plant.

To follow that same path, Solicitor David Regoli said it would have to go through an area where the authority has a retention pond that is 150 feet long by 35 feet wide and 15 feet deep.

But authority engineer Ed Schmitt said that there's a building and water tank that were built just last year, in that same right of way.

Authority members Bob Pallone and Melvyn Smith questioned Rozanc concerning why the rail line has to go through the property; Pallone mentioned having to tear down buildings.

Rozanc replied, “There is no intention to knock down any buildings at this point. We can go up and around.”

“Any reasonable taxpayer has to wonder why you would do that,” Pallone said. “You'll be spending millions of dollars.”

Pallone said it would be far easier to have traffic come over the bridge, turn right at Riverview Plaza and to go down into Arnold instead.

He and Regoli suggested that the rail line would start there, where the rail line passes by a car wash or near a reclaimed former glass plant property.

Rozanc said having building the commuter train stop in Arnold could result in dozens of cars cutting through the residential areas along Caldwell and Esther avenues. She indicated that it would be preferable to route traffic through the Giant Eagle shopping area.

Rozanc said there are a number of options involving the authority property, including building the rail line over it, building a short tunnel under it or moving the line out over the Allegheny River to go around the plant.

There also is a possibility that it would be more feasible to begin the rail line in New Kensington, she said.

As for the path that lies ahead for commuter rail, Rozanc said the next step is getting a transportation bill passed by the state Legislature to provide some grant money.

“If there is no transportation bill passed,” she said, “that is a real game changer.”

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or

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