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Scrap the connector

| Thursday, Dec. 29, 2005

Reality is coming home to roost for the Port Authority of Allegheny County's misguided North Shore Connector Project.

First, it either low-balled or badly underestimated the cost of a ridiculous plan to tunnel underneath the Allegheny River and connect the light-rail subway's Gateway Station to the North Shore. The lowest of the bids for twin tunnels came in 24 percent higher than projections.

Now, in an attempt to rein-in escalating costs that always seem to grow and grow and grow with such boondoggles, the Port Authority has pared the scope of the project. It's scrapping, at least for now, the spur line that would connect Steel Plaza with the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

That change, which includes a delay in buying four new light-rail vehicles, is projected to "save" about $80 million. Yet the surviving project cost remains at about $393 million. So where's that "savings" again?

The Port Authority has a troubling history of making grand cost and ridership estimates for projects that never seem to pan out. The "Airport Busway" that falls an easy dozen miles short of Pittsburgh International Airport and the Wabash HOV Tunnel -- both with ridership numbers far below what were used to sell the projects -- are two more recent examples.

Much money has been wasted on what surely will be another over-hyped, over-budget and underused disappointment. Wasting more should not be an option.

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