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Mayor driving plan to move Pittsburgh

| Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010

Standing at the mouth of the East Busway near Penn Circle and Penn Avenue in East Liberty on Tuesday, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said the location is a "prime example" of infrastructure improving a neighborhood.

"Transportation is continually improving corridors, and this is a prime example of it," Ravenstahl said overlooking backhoes and compactors moving earth at the future site of a Target store set to open later this year. "This needs to be done citywide."

Ravenstahl will meet with local transportation officials today to discuss his 20-year transportation plan, dubbed Move Pittsburgh. The mayor's plan will look at making the city's roads, rails, trails, rivers and mass transit work together to relieve congestion, connect neighborhoods and improve accessibility. Ravenstahl will be looking to secure funding for a study to guide the process, which he estimates will cost about $1.1 million.

"We're not reinventing the wheel. We're going to bring them all together in an attempt to have a complete plan," Ravenstahl said.

Officials hope the project coincides with opportunities for funding and falls in line with recent federal objectives such as sustainability, energy efficiency and connecting communities.

"We're getting everybody to the table agreeing to one common vision for the city of Pittsburgh," said Noor Ismail, director of the planning department.

Lucinda Beattie of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership said the process will help the city develop a master plan and have projects bent toward a common goal, even if money is only available for a few elements at a time. "This is the financially feasible way to cobble together the pieces you can fund, as you can fund them," she said.

PennDOT District Executive Dan Cessna said he didn't know exactly what the city had in mind for the plan, but hoped the meeting would clarify if PennDOT would have a major role in it. At the least, the state agency would oversee any federal transportation funding for city transportation projects, he said.

A bicycle and pedestrian master plan already under way with $135,000 in funding from the Heinz Endowments will be folded into the Move Pittsburgh plan, said Stephen Patchan, the city's bicycling coordinator.

Ravenstahl plans to finalize the members of his Move Pittsburgh task force later this month, but other members could be added throughout the process. Requests for consultants to complete the study could come as early as spring.

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