U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Pittsburgh this spring to talk pipeline safety when he got an "earful" about something else.
During his visit, politicians and community members explained the value of a new transit center in East Liberty, Mr. LaHood said, and his department Friday announced it will pledge $15 million in federal grants to help pay for the project.
Nearly 1,000 bus arrivals and departures will move through the $34 million multimodal transit hub each day, and officials say the center linking the East Busway to the East Liberty commercial corridor will also help boost business opportunities in the East End neighborhood.
Mr. LaHood said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl underscored the need for the transit center.
"I got an earful from the entire community about the importance of this project and the fact that it was absolutely critical to the community," he said during a media conference call Friday morning.
He said the project has a strong, bipartisan commitment and will create jobs and improved transportation options.
"We felt it was worth funding," he said.
The two-level transit station will include a bicycle garage and new platforms and will link bus rapid transit service with street level bus service. It will realign and reopen streets, sidewalks, streetscapes, a replacement road bridge, adaptive traffic signals and a bike and pedestrian access bridge, according to the transportation department.
The department is investing $500 million in the fourth round of its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, and 47 projects in 34 states will receive the federal funds.
According to the transportation department, 12 percent of grants will go to multimodal, bicycle and pedestrian projects like the East Liberty transit center, which will also create a pedestrian link to neighboring Shadyside.
"We know that state and local governments are hurting," Mr. LaHood said. "We need to give them the funding and the certainty they need to tackle big projects."
Mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven has said the East Liberty project will be paid for through the $15 million grant, previously announced by Mr. Casey, as well as state and city funds. Construction is expected to begin next spring, she has said.
Developer Mosites Co. is considering potential office, residential and hotel developments on land near the East Liberty Target, and the transit center is expected to boost those proposed Eastside III and Eastside IV developments. The developer's president Steve Mosites has said he would like to begin work at the site next spring or summer.
The demand for TIGER IV grants was significant, Mr. LaHood said, and the transportation department received 703 applications this round.
Mr. Casey's office has said only 7 percent of those that applied for a grant received one.neigh_city - Transportation
Molly Born: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1944. First Published June 23, 2012 12:15 AM