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Allegheny Democrats helped defeat transportation bill

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

Allegheny County Democrats, including House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, played a key role in Monday night's defeat of a transportation funding bill.

The delegation split 11-7 against the bill. Voting no were Paul Costa, Dom Costa, Dan Deasy, Tony DeLuca, Dermody, Nick Kotik, Rob Matzie, Dan Miller, Adam Ravenstahl, Harry Readshaw and Jesse White.

Yes votes came from Dan Frankel, Ed Gainey, Marc Gergely, Bill Kortz, Joseph Markosek, Erin Molchany and Jake Wheatley.

It's fairly obvious that the provision in the bill raising the threshold for prevailing wages -- opposed by some union leaders -- caused some Democrats to vote no. Evidently the influence of unions outweighed the interests of the diverse groups concerned about crumbling roads and bridges and transit service cuts.

Allegheny Republicans split 3-2 in favor of the bill, with yes votes by Harold English, John Maher and Mark Mustio. Voting no were Rick Saccone and GOP leader Mike Turzai.

The entire 103-98 roll call can be viewed here.

It's unclear whether there will be an attempt to revive the bill before the House concludes business.

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Air travelers rent out their cars rather than paying to park

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

NPR reports a novel idea that is taking hold at some airports: Instead of leaving their cars in the long-term lot, travelers are renting them out. Rather than paying to park, they return to find a check waiting for them.

“At any moment there’s something like 360,000 cars in long-term parking lots in the top 30 U.S. airports,” says one of the teenage founders of FlightCar, which currently operates at Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles airports. “That’s very inefficient.”

The full story is here.

Footnote: Nothing like that is currently in the works at Pittsburgh International, according to airport authority spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny.

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menatworkThe new flyover ramp that carries traffic from northbound Interstate 79 to westbound I-70/I-79 in Washington County opened on Saturday. Hope you don’t miss the rumble strips and demolition-derby loop that has been put out of service.

Hulton Bridge traffic faces restrictions this week. Alternating one-way traffic will be in effect from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday during repair work to beams; the bridge will be closed from 8 p.m. Thursday to 5 a.m. Friday as crew adjust the tension of cables.

McArdle Roadway in Pittsburgh will be closed from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday from the Liberty Bridge to Grandview Avenue during what the city calls “general cleanup of the area.”

The Pennsylvania Turnpike will be closed in both directions between the Butler Valley and Allegheny Valley interchanges from 11:59 p.m. Saturday to 4 a.m. Sunday for demolition of the Rich Hill Road bridge. The 18-mile detour uses Routes 8, 28 and 910 and Freeport Road. The bridge is one of six being replaced in advance of a turnpike reconstruction and widening project.

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The streetcar makes a comeback, but not in Pittsburgh

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

 

streetcar

This one should bring tears to Pittsburghers’ eyes. The Associated Press reports that streetcars are making a comeback in cities across the nation. Pittsburgh’s extensive streetcar network slowly disappeared over the last half-century, and road rebuilding projects typically included ripping out the old tracks, most recently on West Liberty Avenue, where they were buried beneath the asphalt.

If only we’d known.

The AP story is here.

For a nice history of Pittsburgh streetcar service, go here.

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Schedules for 16 Port Authority bus and light rail routes will be adjusted on Nov. 24, as is done four times a year. New timetables will go into effect for routes detoured by the ongoing West Carson Street reconstruction. Information on the changes, including links to new schedules, is now posted here.

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Need a ride? More and more people are going car-free with the help of services like Zipcar, the short-term rental outfit that now has about 50 vehicles deployed in 11 neighborhoods throughout the Pittsburgh area. Customers can rent by the hour, starting at $10.25, or reserve one for a day for $71, which includes gas, insurance, roadside service and 180 miles of driving. For more, go here.

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This one slipped by us a while ago but if you were wondering, the Pocusset Street closure at the Greenfield Avenue Bridge in Pittsburgh is indefinite, caused by road stability issues. This is one of those projects that might go forward if the Legislature passes a transportation funding bill.

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Would you pay $2.50 per week for better transportation?

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

Peter Javsicas, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Transportation Solutions, said the state’s taxpayers support paying more for improvements to roads, bridges, transit and other transportation modes:

"The evidence is in. The studies are done, the reports are reported and the people have been polled.

"All signs point to wide public acceptance of a bipartisan transportation funding bill - as already approved overwhelmingly by the Pennsylvania Senate. The $2.5 billion Senate bill affirmed the findings of two authoritative Governor’s Commissions under two different governors. Jobs and economic well-being in every district, every rural area, every town and city in the Commonwealth depend on well functioning roads, bridges and transit.

"Now, Pennsylvanians are looking for responsible action from the House of Representatives. House members who truly represent the public would be wise to vote with the public.

"Extensive Franklin and Marshall polling data show consistently that the public is willing to accept as much as $2.50 a week in increased driving expenses."

The full article is here.

According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, voters nationwide approved 19 of 21 ballot measures related to increased transportation funding on Election Day.

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Pennsylvania American Water has completed $18 million in rehabilitation work at its Thorn Run and Lake Oneida dams in Oakland Township, Butler County. The three-year project improved the dams’ spillway capacity to improve safety.

Previous Post-Gazette coverage of the project is here.

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menatworkRoute 28 will have single-lane traffic in both directions in the construction zone between the 40th Street Bridge and East Ohio Street starting at 8 p.m. Monday through Friday during installation of traffic cameras and lighting. Work concludes by 5 a.m. each day except Saturday, when restrictions are possible until 8 a.m. The outbound lane closure will be delayed on Wednesday and Friday to accommodate traffic from Penguins home games.

Bridge repairs will cause lane closures on Interstate 279 between the Veterans Bridge and Fort Duquesne Bridge from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

The northbound E-ZPass express lanes on the Mon-Fayette Expressway between Finleyville and Jefferson Hills will be closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, weather permitting, for maintenance. Drivers will use the “slow” E-ZPass lanes on the right.

Lane closures are possible on Route 65 in the area of the bridge over Fremont Street in Bellevue from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today through Wednesday during inspection.

Northbound Route 65 will have a lane closure near Cross Street in Leetsdale from until 3 p.m. today, and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, during bridge repairs.

Traffic on Butler Street near the Pittsburgh Zoo will be rerouted onto a temporary roadway stretching from One Wild Place to Baker Street starting around 9 a.m. Tuesday. The detour will allow PennDOT to demolish and replace the 99-year-old Heth’s Run Bridge.

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Wabash tunnel vision: a federal flub

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

Below is the full text of the Aug. 12 letter from Port Authority acting CEO Ellen McLean to the Federal Transit Administration seeking permission to relax the HOV requirements at the Wabash Tunnel during the West Carson Street closure.

What should have happened: That day, or the next, the FTA should have responded by saying OK, you know what’s best for traffic and for your tunnel. Instead, the agency dawdled, requested more information, then dawdled some more, claiming it needed more information. What it eventually got was not significantly different or more expansive than what Ms. McLean provided in the Aug. 12 letter. What changed is that members of Congress (Sen. Bob Casey and Rep. Mike Doyle) and a newspaper started barking about the long process. Then, and only then, the FTA finally coughed up an answer.

What happened here was that a bureaucracy was more concerned about minding its turf and protecting its prerogatives than serving the public that pays its salaries. Whether the open Wabash will reduce congestion in the work zone remains to be seen, but if it does, motorists can thank their federal government for putting them through nearly three months of needless delays and inconvenience.

Our story about the Wabash waiver for today’s print edition is here.

Ms. Brigid Hynes-Cherin
Region III Administrator
Federal Transit Administration
 
Re: Wabash Tunnel Request (Federal Project No.  PA-03-0227)
 
Dear Brigid:
 
Per our telephone discussion late Friday, I am asking, at the request of  PennDOT, for FTA’s authorization to temporarily lift the HOV 2+ restriction on the Wabash Tunnel.
 
Primarily utilizing federal funds, Port Authority rehabilitated and reopened the Wabash Tunnel (which was previously an old railroad tunnel) in December of 2004.  The Tunnel’s primary purpose is to provide buses and high occupancy vehicle commuter traffic access from Route 51 to the South Side and Downtown Pittsburgh.  Currently, the Tunnel is open to buses and HOV 2+ traffic during morning peak (6 to 10 a.m.) and afternoon peak (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) hours.  The Tunnel is open to all traffic during non-peak times, and it is closed entirely overnight from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
 
Recently, PennDOT closed the outbound lanes of West Carson Street from the West End Bridge to McKees Rocks as part of a large PennDOT construction project that is expected to last two years (through late 2015).  This closure is causing substantial congestion and delays for motorists traveling to and from Route 51, Mt. Washington, Downtown and the Southside. Port Authority began receiving requests from various political leaders and local organizations to lift the HOV 2+ restriction in the Tunnel to try and ease this congestion.  This past Friday, PennDOT formally requested that Port Authority lift the restriction while its project is being completed.
 
While we frankly feel that PennDOT should have included this request as part of its planning for the roadwork, there is no denying that the West Carson Street closure is causing significant traffic delays and detours for motorists and that lifting the Tunnel HOV 2+ restriction during peak hours would likely resolve some of these issues.
 
Port Authority Police, Safety Operations, and Legal personnel have evaluated the request, and we believe that the Tunnel can safely be opened to all traffic during peak hours (assuming motorists follow posted speed limits and other signage).  From the standpoint of Port Authority’s bus operations/capital dollars, we do not believe that bus operations or bus miles travelled will be adversely affected as few buses utilize the Tunnel on a regular basis and the buses that do already share it with HOV vehicles during peak hours and all private vehicles during non-peak hours.  Of course, if lifting the restriction would prove to adversely affect bus operations or cause any other issues for Port Authority from an operational, capital, legal or safety perspective, Port Authority would certainly revisit the lifting of the restriction.
 
With that being said and because Wabash was funded primarily with federal dollars, Port Authority is requesting FTA’s concurrence to proceed with modifying the operating hours to lift the HOV 2+ peak hours restriction until PennDOT’s West Carson Street work is completed.     
 
I look forward to FTA’s review and response to this request in the near future.  Of course, please contact me if you have any remaining questions or require any additional information to render a decision.   I thank you for your attention on this matter.
 
Regards,

Ellen

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workzoneThe Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge will reopen next Thursday evening after a two-season, $16.6 million rehabilitation project. PennDOT had announced a delay last month, but construction workers stepped it up to get the bridge open two days ahead of the advertised schedule.

The Squirrel Hill Tunnels will be open this weekend. Overnight lane closures will be in effect from 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday on the inbound side and 10 p.m. on the outbound side, with all restrictions lifted by 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The Duquesne Incline will close from about 8 a.m. to about 4 p.m. Friday for a state inspection. Shuttle buses will carry riders to the Monongahela Incline. One shuttle will operate between the upper stations of the inclines, the other between the lower stations.

The right lane on inbound Route 28 will be closed from the 40th Street Bridge to East Ohio Street from 8 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Saturday during replacement of a gutter.

Traffic will be stopped on the Parkway East for up to 15 minutes at a time in both directions from midnight Friday to 2 a.m. Saturday between Squirrel Hill and Edgewood-Swissvale during placement of an overhead sign.

Thompson Run Road in Monroeville will reopen this afternoon. The road has been closed by a landslide between Lower Rodi Road and Northern Pike since late July. It was expected to reopen at 1 p.m.

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