The Port Authority's light-rail extension to the North Shore is ready for its March 25 debut of passenger service, officials said today.
"We will be ready to roll on the 25th," said Winston Simmonds, the authority's rail operations/engineering officer, who led a tour of the 1.2-mile, $523.4 million extension.
A test train needed less than two minutes to make its way from a new Gateway Center Station, Downtown, to the new North Side Station near PNC Park, by way of a snaking, undulating tunnel beneath the Allegheny River.
The Gateway platform, twice the size of the waiting area at the old station, is bathed in natural light coming through the curving glass walls of the station enclosure. Though it is some 43 steps below Liberty Avenue, "it has the feeling of being at ground level," Mr. Simmonds said.
The station's unusual design also features concrete pillars and stainless steel sign posts that rise at angles from the platform.
"It's a tunnel station that allows sunlight to come through. That's a unique characteristic," he said.
The North Side Station, biggest on the Light Rail Transit system, also is below ground. From there, trains climb to an elevated section of track that ends at Allegheny Station, an aerial platform at the northwest corner of Heinz Field that also has views of the Carnegie Science Center, SportsWorks, the Rivers Casino, Community College of Allegheny County and the nearby Allegheny West neighborhood.
Rides on the extension will be free, underwritten for the next three years by the Steelers, the casino, Alco Parking and the Pittsburgh Stadium Authority. The free-fare zone will then stretch from First Avenue Station to the end of the line at Allegheny Station.
During weekday peak periods, service to the new stations will operate every 4 minutes. Officials are hoping to lure commuters to park in North Shore lots and garages and take the free ride into Downtown.
The first passenger trip to use the new tunnels under the Allegheny River will be a Red Line train scheduled to depart Wood Street for the new extension at 5:46 a.m. on March 25. Running time from Wood Street to the Allegheny Station is 9 minutes.
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868. First Published March 12, 2012 5:00 PM