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Port Authority plans to replace deteriorated McKeesport hub

| Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, 4:21 a.m.
McKeesport Transportation Center will be demolished and replaced by a new multimodal terminal to serve regional and local bus runs, vans, ACCESS paratransit runs, bicyclists and park-and-ride users. PennDOT granted $1 million to Port Authority of Allegheny County for the work; the transit agency must come up with a 30 percent match.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
McKeesport Transportation Center will be demolished and replaced by a new multimodal terminal to serve regional and local bus runs, vans, ACCESS paratransit runs, bicyclists and park-and-ride users. PennDOT granted $1 million to Port Authority of Allegheny County for the work; the transit agency must come up with a 30 percent match.
Clara Barton Elementary teacher Megan Reynolds works with Patrick Simbeck (left) and Lucas Stewart to organize pink pumpkins in the school lobby.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Trib Total Media
Clara Barton Elementary teacher Megan Reynolds works with Patrick Simbeck (left) and Lucas Stewart to organize pink pumpkins in the school lobby.

Port Authority of Allegheny County plans to replace the badly deteriorated McKeesport Transportation Center with a multimodal terminal serving regional and local buses, vans and ACCESS paratransit routes.

The project and one in Glassport are among 86 recipients in 35 counties sharing $84 million granted by PennDOT from the Multimodal Transportation Fund established in Act 89 of 2013.

“The Multimodal Transportation Fund was designed to provide grants to encourage economic development and ensure that a safe and reliable system of transportation is available to the residents of Pennsylvania,” said state Sen. James Brewster, D-McKeesport, whose 45th District includes both locations.

Thirty percent matches will be required from local sources for a $243,750 grant to Three Rivers Marine & Rail Terminals LP in Glassport and $1 million to the Port Authority.

“We're very pleased and excited to move forward with this project, as it would be a significant improvement for riders and the community,” spokesman Jim Ritchie said of the Port Authority's McKeesport project.

Port Authority plans to demolish the center, built for $3.2 million in the late 1970s along Lysle Boulevard. It sits between Locust Street and the Coursin Street flyover ramp, two of three access roads into Regional Industrial Development Corp. of Southwestern Pennsylvania's Regional Industrial Center of McKeesport.

“It leads me to believe when you are going to put money into a new transportation center that the Port Authority expects that it will be used,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said.

The mayor anticipates additional use from commuters coming into the RIDC site.

“There is one major thing that has been talked about,” Cherepko said. “A vital part of that is becoming a reality. It would bring a lot of people into town for various reasons.”

Cherepko declined to give details, and did not say if the project will be industrial or retail.

“The Port Authority submitted a grant application to replace the outdated building to facilitate the continuing development of the former mill site,” said Brewster, a former McKeesport mayor who recently was named secretary of a reorganized Port Authority board.

Port Authority will continue to have a park-and-ride lot now found outside the center, as well as access to the Great Allegheny Passage bicycle trail.

“This project will both create jobs and give McKeesport a state-of-the-art transportation center that will enhance our regional appeal,” said Democratic state Rep. Marc Gergely of White Oak.

Over the years the old transportation center accumulated a full share of problems, including a significant mold infestation. The county transit agency said it gets complaints about the downtown McKeesport property.

“Generally we hope to replace the badly deteriorated building with a better transit facility to serve riders,” Ritchie said. “Details of the work are not yet finalized.”

Work could be done around those who access the existing bus stops there by foot or as park-and-ride users.

“It's not clear yet that service would be affected but this certainly is something we'd want to review as we finalize plans for the facility,” Ritchie said.

When it was built, daily Amtrak train service linked McKeesport with Washington, Pittsburgh and Chicago.

The old Tube City still was a stop for the Capitol Limited, first provided by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad that once had commuter service between McKeesport and Pittsburgh.

It was immortalized by the Rev. David R. Stokes in a novel about the 1947 John F. Kennedy-Richard Nixon debate at the old Penn-McKee Hotel.

From 1975 until 1989 the old Port Authority PATrain commuter service had stops in McKeesport and Braddock.

In 2009 the center received a national spotlight as the place where Greyhound had to bring its Pittsburgh operations during the G-20 summit of finance ministers and central bank governors President Obama held in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Three Rivers Marine & Rail Terminals LP will get a $243,750 grant for the design and construction of five quad tie cells for barge mooring at its Glassport terminal located between the Monongahela River and the CSX railroad tracks, near the Clairton Bridge.

The grant comes two years after Charleroi-based Three Rivers Marine, doing business as Glassport Terminal Associates Inc., bought the 17.278-acre property at 1060 Ohio Ave. from Glassport Transportation Inc. for $487,500.

According to the Port of Pittsburgh Commission, the location at milepost 19.5 on the Monongahela River handles aggregates for construction use, break bulk goods that must be shipped individually, coal, dry bulk and other general commodities and steel.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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