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Carson Street widening under consideration

| Saturday, Aug. 4, 2001, 12:00 p.m.

The East Carson Street land that was once LTV's South Side Works steel plant could someday be home to a movie theater, an amphitheater and a cadre of other residential buildings and retail businesses.

But before that can happen, South Side leaders and developers believe it's necessary to widen the oft-clogged Carson Street, and they took the first step this week.

'The section (of Carson Street) between Becks Run Road and the Birmingham Bridge is on the morning rush hour reports every day,' Carey Harris, executive director of the South Side Local Development Corp., said Friday.

On Thursday, representatives for the development corporation were among about 30 groups that delivered proposals for transportation projects they wanted funded in the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission's 2003-2006 Transportation Improvement Plan and the State Transportation Commission's 12-year Highway Plan.

A county Public Participation Panel will begin sifting through and prioritizing the proposals from municipalities, developers and individuals before presenting them to a joint session of the SPC and the STC on Aug. 23 and 24, said Beverly Pearson, a SPC spokeswoman.

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, which receives and distributes federal transportation money, is responsible for overseeing the Transportation Improvement Plan.

The commission includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Greene, Indiana, Washington and Westmoreland counties. Each county has its own Public Participation Panel which will prioritize the individual projects.

Anthony Lapiana, speaking on behalf of the South Side Local Development Corp., was seeking aid for a $14 million project to widen East Carson Street between 25th and 33rd streets.

Lapiana, who works for the Soffer Organization, which owns 26 acres on the South Side Works site, said he was concerned that the state Department of Transportation could halt development on the land if Carson Street wasn't widened.

Representatives from Economic Development South, a group of Whitehall and Brentwood residents and officials, pitched their proposal to plant trees on Route 51 and turn it into a boulevard. They asked for $18 million for the upgrade.

Italo Mackin, the president of Mackin Engineering, testified to the benefits of an urban magnetic levitation train that he said would send a 90-passenger vehicle 50 mph to various stops in Pittsburgh.

Officials from Mt. Lebanon are seeking funds to upgrade traffic signals on two bustling corridors along Route 19. The estimated cost for a signal upgrade on Cochran Road would be about $700,000 and $500,000 for Washington Road.

Lynn Heckman, senior deputy director of the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, proposed 43 different projects for the county.

Heckman said vehicular access to former mill sites in Duquesne and McKeesport is needed so developments can arise there. The sites are restricted from railroads, she said.

The amount of funds available to the SPC won't be known until next fall, Pearson said. A draft of the 2003-2006 Traffic Improvement Plan will be completed either next April or May.

After public hearings and subsequent state approval, the Federal Highway Administration is scheduled to approve the plan in August 2002 for an Oct. 1, 2002 starting date.

Erik Siemers can be reached at esiemers@tribweb.com or (412) 320-7997.

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