Port Authority antes up $2M for Bus Rapid Transit line, seeks more
Port Authority of Allegheny County voted on Tuesday to allocate money to design a $200 million express bus service project between Oakland and Downtown, moving the agency's largest project since the North Shore Connector closer to reality.
The transit agency shifted $1.56 million of its 2014-15 capital budget from a bridge project to help pay for engineering design and an environmental impact study — required precursors to applying for federal funding in 2016 for a Bus Rapid Transit line.
The money will go with $440,000 Port Authority allocated and $1 million from the county. Port Authority officials plan to ask the county for $1 million, likely from drink tax revenue, to pay the $4 million initial bill.
“The engineering design would cover about 30 percent of how this would lay out,” Port Authority Chairman Robert Hurley said.
The rest of the design would be completed when federal funding is approved, he said.
The reallocation took money from painting and repairs for the North Braddock Avenue Bridge. Hurley said that project still would move forward.
“The county will fund this (second $1 million request) as part of a local match, the same as it did on the North Shore Connector,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who plans to budget the money next year.
“This is a priority for the business community in Oakland and Downtown. Oakland and Downtown are literally bursting at the seams. We've got to figure out a way to get people in and out using transit,” he said.
Fitzgerald contends a BRT line, which would cost about $200 million, could spark development.
Susan Manko, spokeswoman for UPMC, which employs more than 10,000 people in Oakland, said the hospital system supports BRT and donated a parcel of land near UPMC Presbyterian hospital along Fifth Avenue for a BRT station.
“Absolutely, we support it. It would ease transportation for people,” Manko said.
The North Shore Connector, opened in 2012, cost $517 million.
Officials estimate extending the T to Oakland would cost $1 billion. Fitzgerald contends BRT is a more economical option.
Government watchdogs say Port Authority needs to provide more information before spending gobs of public money.
“We already have a bus-dedicated lane. How much time will this save? It comes down to the engineering study,” said Eric Montarti, senior policy analyst for the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy. “They're trying to make it more attractive, like light-rail. But it's not light-rail. Government leaders are really interested in it. Where's all the money going to come from?”
County Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon, said she opposed the county allocating $1 million the first time for a study.
“We just need more information. Last time, there was no presentation to council,” Heidelbaugh said. “If BRT increases ridership for those that desperately need it, I'd be in favor of it. To the extent this is a capital project without an increase in ridership, then no.”
Port Authority released details during the past year. Potential routes to Oakland have been narrowed to Forbes and Fifth avenues, officials said. With a BRT line, Port Authority officials said buses would travel five minutes apart, allowing for quicker trips. Trips to Morewood Avenue, for example, would take 14:07 from Downtown, compared with 23:10.
Stops would resemble light-rail stations, and buses would look like trains.
Andy Hardie, owner of Dave & Andy's Homemade Ice Cream in Oakland, said reconfiguring traffic could pose problems.
“I'm always a little skeptical about these things. If you go up on Fifth at rush hour, it's already next to impossible to get on the parkway. And if they take out another lane for buses, traffic would be ridiculous,” said Hardie, 55, of Fox Chapel. “I agree there needs to be better mass transit, but what it is, I don't know.”
Bobby Kerlik is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7886 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Tomlin says practice will determine LB Harrison’s role
- Steelers notebook: Archer shooting for return vs. Buccaneers
- Pirates notebook: Pirates prepare for playoff berth celebration
- Steelers’ Taylor recovering from forearm surgery
- Penguins notebook: Crosby practices for 1st time since opening of camp
- Port Authority: Drivers ‘reckless’ before buses bumped, wrecking 1
- Big apartment plan in Oakland gets Planning Commission OK
- Steelers defense must replace 3 injured starters after victory
- State Sen. Jim Ferlo: ‘I’m gay. Get over it. I love it’
- Allegheny County executive says property tax increase not planned in 2015
- Fox Chapel teen wins $25K scholarship in Google Science Fair