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John Oliver's hilarious take on failing infrastructure (and failing Congress)

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

Congress’ inaction on funding infrastructure has attracted the attention of “60 Minutes,” Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” and now is the subject of a fabulous and funny 21-minute sendup on “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver. You’ll laugh and maybe shed a tear and shake your head at the inability of our elected leaders to do anything about a deadly serious problem.

Online ConnectCard site: Beware

Port Authority is set to debut its online payment option for ConnectCard users on Thursday. The important thing to bear in mind is that online purchases will not show up immediately on your card — the data is uploaded to bus fareboxes when they are at the garage. So if you buy a pass or add value, it might take up to three days to be available to you. If you buy a weekly pass on Monday morning, the fareboxes aren't going to see it on your card until Tuesday.

If you have regular access to a ConnectCard vending machine, that will remain the far better way to replenish your card. It takes about 30 seconds and the transaction shows up immediately on your card. The online site will require you to enter your 10-digit ConnectCard number, which by itself might take longer than the entire vending machine transaction.

The online site will be useful to those who want to replenish their cards or purchase passes at regular intervals (for example, buying a monthly pass on the 25th of each month, a weekly pass every Thursday for the coming week or add $50 every two weeks). It can be set up to do that. Occasional card users who don’t remember how much is on their cards can check the balance at the site.

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roadworkaheadIn case you missed it, you can read up on the forthcoming Parkway West closures here. The inbound side is closed all weekend.

Construction begins Thursday on a long stretch of Penn Avenue and Butler Street in Pittsburgh from the 31st Street Bridge to 57th Street. Alternating one-way traffic will be in effect weeknights at 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. the next day, with some Saturday work possible.

Bridge washing will cause traffic restrictions on the ramp from southbound Interstate 79 to the outbound Parkway West starting at 7 p.m. today (Wednesday) through Friday. Flaggers will control traffic. Work concludes by 6 a.m. daily.

Liberty Bridge inspections won’t affect traffic on the bridge but may cause restrictions on First and Second avenues and Municipal Court Drive under the bridge from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays through April 22.

Tree cutting to prepare for bridge replacements will cause these restrictions from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.: on Thursday, Saxonburg Boulevard in Shaler will be reduced to one lane at Little Pine Creek; on Friday and Saturday, Bull Creek Road in Fawn will be reduced to one lane at Bull Creek between Huston Drive and Jones Hollow Road; on Monday and Tuesday, Center Street in White Oak will be reduced to one lane at Long Run, south of Long Run Road. Flaggers will direct traffic.

Streets Run Road and Baldwin Road in Baldwin Borough will have alternating one-way traffic from 7 p.m. today (Wednesday) to 6 a.m. Thursday for water line repairs.

Mayor Bill Peduto will demonstrate a new mobile pothole patching machine at the corner of Sandusky and General Robinson Streets, North Side, at 4 p.m. today. The city is leasing it for a four-month trial. Hope the demo doesn't tie up Pirates traffic.


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More orange barrels to pop up next week

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

Repaving of Greentree Road in Scott and Green Tree will continue Monday through next Saturday, April 18. On Monday through Thursday, from McMonagle Avenue to McKinney Road, traffic will be restricted to one lane in both directions in the three- and four-lane sections and will be in an alternating one-way pattern in the two-lane sections, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. On Thursday and Friday, the single-lane and alternating one-way restrictions will occur from Cochran Road to Potomac Avenue during the same hours. On Saturday, alternating one-way traffic will be in effect from Elmhurst Road to Potomac Avenue from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. No work will occur on April 19.

Traffic on Route 50 in South Fayette will be shifted to the eastbound lanes at 7 a.m. Monday, with single-lane traffic in both directions separated by temporary barrier. Construction will occur on the westbound side. When the westbound lanes are completed, probably in June, traffic will move over and the eastbound side will be rebuilt. Left turns from eastbound Route 50 to Route 978 will be eliminated during the project.

Construction to repair two landslides will close Weyman Road in Whitehall between Provost and McRoberts roads starting at 7 a.m. Monday and continuing around the clock through June 12. The posted detour uses Baptist and Brownsville roads and Route 51. Alternating one-way traffic will be in effect at times on Weyman from McRoberts to Baptist. Port Authority’s Y45 Baldwin Manor Flyer will detour. After slide work is completed, paving will reduce Weyman to an alternating one-way pattern from Provost to Baptist through mid-August.

weyman

Thoms Run Road in Collier will close north of Steen Hollow Road for a bridge replacement project starting at 7 a.m. Wednesday. Traffic will be detoured via Battle Ridge Road and Route 978. Work is scheduled to be completed in mid-June.

thoms

Northbound Route 19 in Jackson will have a lane closure just south of the Route 528 intersection starting Monday for a widening project.

portauthoritylogoPort Authority will single-track rail vehicles from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday in the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel during track work. All vehicles will use the outbound track. Inbound buses that use the tunnel will be detoured via Allentown and outbound service will use the Wabash Tunnel.

Be sure to check yesterday’s post for all the details of Parkway West chaos and other impending traffic restrictions around the city.

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City falls short with paving plan

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

 

citypaving

The city of Pittsburgh’s brand-new interactive map showing planned paving projects this year makes it look like lots of fresh asphalt will be applied to the city’s crumbling streets. Looks deceive.

The city’s meager program will resurface only 44 miles, or about half of what would be necessary in a given year to keep the streets in good repair. This continues a longstanding practice of shortchanging the paving budget and the result is clear to anyone who drives in the city — streets that are in Third World condition.

Mayors have said they can’t afford to do more. But residents can’t be satisfied with the awful shape of their streets. There’s money in the city budget to do more if leadership attaches a priority to fixing this problem. Absent that, why not ask the voters to approve a small tax increase to finance a bond issue to fund a major paving program? Let them decide whether they’re willing to pay a bit more for a smooth ride.

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Coal Valley Road in Jefferson Hills will be closed starting at 7 a.m. Monday for a bridge repair project. Traffic will detour via New England Road. The work is expected to continue until mid-May.

coalvalley

One lane of eastbound Route 22 (William Penn Highway) in Monroeville, between the Route 286 ramp and Alpine Village Drive, will close for water line work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday next week.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike will be closed in both directions from Breezewood (Exit 161) to Carlisle (Exit 226) from 11 p.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Sunday for bridge demolition. The recommended detour uses Route 30, Interstate 70, Interstate 81 and U.S. 11.

menatworkParkway West schedule: Closed outbound from Green Tree to Interstate 79 from 10 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday; one lane open inbound. Closed inbound from I-79 to Parkway Center from 10 p.m. Friday to 10 a.m. Saturday; one lane open outbound from Banksville Road to Poplar Street. Closed outbound from Green Tree to I-79 from 10 p.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday; one lane open outbound from Banksville Road to Green Tree. One lane open inbound from Poplar Street to the West End/Uniontown exit from 10 a.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Monday. One lane open outbound from Banksville Road to Poplar Street from 10 a.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday.

Got it?

Also, weeknight lane closures continue in the inbound Fort Pitt Tunnel, starting at 10 p.m., with the added pleasure of temporary rumble strips at two places on the approach. PennDOT has grown weary of drivers doubling the 40 mph work zone speed limit in the tunnel.

The inbound right lane of the Liberty Bridge will be closed from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday during inspections. No restrictions outbound.

One lane of the Squirrel Hill Tunnels, both directions, will close at 10 p.m. Sunday through Friday as the tunnels get a bath. Work concludes by 5 a.m. each day.

Single-lane traffic will be in effect on Fifth Avenue near the Birmingham Bridge during traffic signal work from 6 a.m. Saturday through 5 p.m. Sunday.

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Trying to get Congress moving on transportation funding

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

We’re back after an extended period of hibernation. Thanks for your patience.

Next Thursday is National Stand Up for Transportation Day, an observance that will be marked locally with a rally at 10 a.m. at Wood Street Station.

The event is sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association and the purpose is to encourage Congress to do its job and enact a long-term, well-funded transportation bill that gives states the ability to plan long-range projects and address crumbling roads and bridges and ailing transit systems.

Here’s more:

Pittsburgh area leaders are joining with their counterparts nationwide, April 9, 2015 to draw attention and awareness to the looming federal transportation funding crisis and call on Congress to follow Pennsylvania’s lead by passing a comprehensive, sustainable transportation funding package. Sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), with support from national and local partners from transportation, business, labor and community oriented interests, Stand Up for Transportation Day will unite the voices of 200+ participating organizations in over 140 communities nationwide to focus on the federal transportation funding crisis’s urgency and provide a Pittsburgh-region context.
 
WHY: Whether you ride a train, bus or bike, walk or drive, the expiration of the federal funding bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), has a direct impact on southwestern Pennsylvania’s economy and quality of life. On May 31, 2015, the nation’s transportation funding mechanism - the Highway Trust Fund - becomes literally insolvent. It also threatens to wipe out the leadership Pennsylvania showed in passing its own transportation funding bill, Act 89 of 2013. Without a long-term federal transportation funding bill, ours and communities across the country will face tremendous economic and employment uncertainty.  Transportation is the backbone of our local and national economy. A long-term transportation bill is needed to reinforce and expand transportation choices, and to continue to grow our economy – locally and nationally.

And there's more from this piece in The Washington Post, decrying Republican budgets that would further starve our transportation infrastructure:

Every once in a while, you’re hit over the head with just how damaging the dysfunctional, unresponsive politics we live with today really are.

Here’s a headline from a Post article from yesterday: “With 61,000 bridges needing repair, states await action on Capitol Hill.”

And then there’s this budget analysis by my Center on Budget colleague David Reich: “House, Senate Budgets Have Big Cuts in Transportation Infrastructure.”

David points out that both of the budgets passed by the House and Senate “cut highway construction and other transportation infrastructure funding over the next decade by 28 percent and 22 percent, respectively, below the cost of maintaining current funding levels.” That is, they go in exactly the opposite direction that we need them to, given the state of our national transportation infrastructure.

The full article is here.

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Yellow Cab has debuted its answer to Uber and Lyft, called Z-Trip and Yellow Z.

Jamie Campolongo, president of Pittsburgh Transportation Group, said the service “is in direct response to the efforts of our ride-share competitors” with “significant differences.” Customers can ride in privately owned vehicles whose drivers have been vetted and trained and insured by Yellow Cab.

Details can be found here.

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In observance of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month:

texting 

menatworkPaving begins Monday on Greentree Road in Scott and Green Tree and will restrict traffic on this schedule: Monday through Wednesday, from Cochran Road to McMonagle Road, single-lane traffic in both directions from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.; on Thursday, alternating one-way traffic from McMonagle Road to Potomac Avenue, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, alternating one-way traffic from Elmhurst Road to Carnahan Road, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., except that work on Saturday will continue until 4 p.m. More restrictions will be announced later as the project continues into August.

Also Monday, Freeport Road in Harmar will be reduced to one narrow lane in both directions at the Hulton Bridge, with the dedicated turn lane for southbound traffic closed. You’ll still be able to turn left at the bridge, provided you can survive the inevitable traffic jam in getting there. The restrictions will be in place until mid-October, when the new bridge is scheduled to open.

Bridge inspection will close the left and center lanes of the Parkway East at the bridge carrying Garden City Drive over the parkway in Monroeville from 9 p.m. Monday to 5 a.m. Tuesday.

Happy motoring!

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On transportation, candidate Wolf steers to low road

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

The transportation funding bill enacted by the Pennsylvania Legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett last fall was a shining example of bipartisanship at a time of polarization and gridlock in our political system.

If he becomes governor, Tom Wolf is going to need bipartisanship if he wants to get anything done. But Mr. Wolf has elected to take a shot at Mr. Corbett’s support of the transportation bill in a TV commercial.

“Corbett raised your gas taxes through the roof,” Mr. Wolf says as a graphic appears saying “Gas prices going up 28 cents a gallon.”

Some context: By eliminating a loophole, the legislation caused the gas tax to rise by 9.5 cents on Jan. 1. It is projected to cause an overall increase of 28 cents over a five-year period. To say that “Corbett raised your gas taxes through the roof” is, at best, shading the truth. The governor signed a bill that had broad support among Democrats and Republicans, not to mention business, labor, environmental groups, transit and bike-pedestrian advocates and countless other civic organizations.

Implicit in Mr. Wolf’s criticism is that he doesn’t support the transportation bill, which could be construed to mean he thinks our roads and bridges were in dandy shape and that public transit systems should continue to slash service and raise fares to cope with their financial problems.

Mr. Corbett’s campaign has pointed out that the commercial came on the heels of this comment from Mr. Wolf during a public appearance: “I applaud the Legislature and the governor for actually coming through, coming up with a transportation plan that actually allows us to fix our bridges and actually move our transportation infrastructure forward.”

As the campaign continues, we’ll see if Mr. Wolf’s applause is the one-handed variety.

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menatworkNorth Pioneer Road will be closed at the intersection of West Hardies Road in Hampton from 8 p.m. today through 5 a.m. Monday for widening and resurfacing that is part of the Route 8-Hardies Road improvement project. The closure of West Hardies Road is projected to continue through Aug. 30.

Work on Elizabeth Mon City Road in Forward will cause intermittent closures between William Penn Road and Williamsport Road. The work will require the use of one lane of the road, with flaggers directing traffic through the open lane. Full closures of up to 15 minutes may be necessary. Work occurs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays through Aug. 22.

Move-in day for first-year students at Carnegie Mellon University will cause street closures in Oakland from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The closures: 5100 block of Margaret Morrison Street, between Forbes Avenue and Tech Street; 100 block of Tech Street, between Margaret Morrison Street and Schenley Drive; 1000 block of Morewood Avenue between Fifth and Forbes avenues. Fifth Avenue congestion is likely at the campus, and officials recommend avoiding it if possible.

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