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Pittsburgh port looking for water taxi operator

| Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, 5:36 p.m.

The Port of Pittsburgh Commission recently won a second federal transportation grant to create a dock and offer public water taxi service to the South Side, North Shore and Downtown, but it won't accept the money until a proposal from an operator materializes, an official said Thursday.

The Federal Highway Administration added a $559,614 Ferry Boat Discretionary Program grant to an existing $985,000 grant awarded in August 2011 to build a landing for a water shuttle, said James McCarville, executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission, which applied for the money.

McCarville said the commission is proceeding cautiously because of past failures at keeping water taxi services in Pittsburgh. The new grant would be used to help start a water taxi service that must be accessible to the public, a condition of the award. A private charter service would not be eligible under the program, he said.

“We are awaiting an effective business plan that would demonstrate that this is a viable operation,” McCarville said. “We don't have that so we have not accepted these funds.”

McCarville said the project will only happen if the commission receives a feasible proposal from a private company. He declined to say if there's a deadline for using the grant money.

Water taxis shuttling passengers to and from Pirates and Steelers games and making regular pickups and drop-offs at entertainment hotspots such as South Side Works and Station Square could eliminate some traffic from congested roads and attract customers who want to escape traffic at peak travel times, McCarville said.

He said the South Side Works is a frontrunner to get a water taxi landing because it's a popular destination and traffic often clogs nearby East Carson Street.

“It would make the amenities more attractive if people didn't have to spend 45 minutes on Carson Street to drive 10 blocks,” he said.

Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or jboren@tribweb.com.

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