Trains, buses, bikes make up vision for travel between Oakland, Downtown
By Bobby Kerlik
Published: Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, 6:09 p.m.
Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto has big ideas for remaking the city's transportation network and hopes commuters will soon have increased access to bike lanes, express bus service, trains and eventually an expanded light rail network.
But first, he has his sights set on traffic Downtown and in Oakland.
“In the present I want to focus on where we have the most congestion and that's Downtown and Oakland. So I'm supportive of the county executive's plan to build a Bus Rapid Transit system that would be using dedicated lanes to connect Downtown and Oakland,” Peduto said. “My goal with that is to include stops in the Hill and Uptown and incorporate transit-oriented development plans to rebuild those corridors.”
Port Authority of Allegheny County officials have said a Bus Rapid Transit system could cost $200 million.
Though Peduto and the city may not have the money to implement all of his ideas, he can build coalitions of supporters who can help steer federal and state money to projects, said University of Pittsburgh public administration and policy expert George Dougherty.
“The local guys have much more influence in setting a vision for the region and the city. In terms of actual budget stuff, he's limited, but he may be able to influence (the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission) and some of their plans,” Dougherty said. “He has to be able to build coalitions.”
Peduto's close relationship with County Executive Rich Fitzgerald could be a plus in securing outside funding. Fitzgerald said he agrees with Peduto on transportation including major projects such as expanding the T and putting bike lanes along the busways.
“I've talked about putting bike lanes along the busways. The throughways are already there. There would be a construction cost, but it might be something where we could charge for a yearly pass,” Fitzgerald said. “(Expanding the T) is real. Now is the time for planning. We've had discussions on how to run it through the North Side neighborhoods to get to 279 or to run it along 279.”
Officials have pegged the cost of extending the T to Cranberry at more than $1 billion.
County Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon, said she suggested the T would better serve people east of the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.
“Expanding the T is so expensive. If you're going to address traffic problems, the biggest traffic problem in Pittsburgh is East Enders coming through the Squirrel Hill Tunnel,” Heidelbaugh said.
Peduto said dedicated bike lanes, or a “bike freeway system,” could be funded by installing red-light cameras at intersections and using the ticket revenue for infrastructure.
“Some of this may mean that we're taking on-street parking out, but there's ways to do this and really modernize our Downtown transportation system,” Peduto said.
Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike Pittsburgh, said Peduto has been supportive of bike racks, the bike-sharing program and bike paths in the city. Bricker said the city needs to dedicate money to build bike lanes that have physical barriers from cars.
“We're really hopeful with the Peduto administration. I think he gets what we're advocating,” Bricker said. “The budget is where you see what any mayor's priorities are. I'm optimistic.”
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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