Some local road projects fail to make list in $4.7 billion spending plan
July 14, 2014 11:36 PM
James Love of Natrona Heights proposes a plan for alternative bus routes at a public hearing on the $4.7 billion four-year transportation budget for the region at the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission's offices.
By Jon Schmitz / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Davis Avenue Bridge on Pittsburgh’s North Side has been missing since 2009, when it was imploded because it was falling apart. The bridge also is missing from a four-year plan for major transportation improvements in the region, drawing disappointment from community leaders at a public hearing on the plan on Monday night.
The draft Transportation Improvement Plan envisions $4.7 billion in spending in the 10 counties of southwestern Pennsylvania in the next four years, a 52 percent increase from the current four-year plan.
The plan brings a reversal of years of diminished spending on infrastructure and public transit, bolstered by the funding bill that the Legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett enacted last fall. The commission, a regional planning agency, released the draft last month. It includes more than 130 major road and bridge projects in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, costing more than $870 million.
At Monday’s hearing, much of the attention was focused on projects that did not make the list. Vince Pallus, president of the Brighton Heights Citizens Federation, said the lack of a Davis Avenue Bridge puts North Side neighborhoods “at a serious disadvantage in attracting residents, businesses and commerce.”
Mark Fatla, executive director of the North Side Leadership Conference, representing 15 neighborhood groups, said loss of the bridge, which closed to traffic in 2001, also severed a major access route to Riverview Park, one of the city’s regional parks.
Mauro Burgwin, president of the Mon-Yough Chamber of Commerce, urged inclusion of the long-delayed next leg of the Mon-Fayette Expressway, from Jefferson Hills to Monroeville. It would open 1,000 acres along the Monongahela River to development and, if paired with an extension of the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway, “could turn into a true multimodal project,” he said.
The TIP lists all of the transportation projects envisioned for the region during the four-year period.
The documents are not “wish lists” like some government capital budgets but must be based on a reasonable expectation that sufficient funding will be available to carry out all of the work. Projects must be listed on the TIP to move forward.
The draft 2015-18 TIP calls for nearly $2 billion in spending on non-interstate highways and bridges, an increase of $534 million or 37 percent; $587 million in spending on interstate highways, up $270 million or 86 percent; and $1.8 billion on transit, an increase of $455 million or 34 percent.
Among the larger projects are a $79 million rehabilitation of the Liberty Bridge in Downtown Pittsburgh, $68 million for Parkway West improvements from Interstate 79 to the Fort Pitt Tunnels; $284 million for nine projects on I-70 in Washington and Westmoreland counties; and $30 million for rehabilitation of the Roberto Clemente, Andy Warhol and Rachel Carson bridges.
Lissa Geiger Schulman, aide to state Rep. Dan Miller, D-Mt. Lebanon, spoke in favor of a major interchange improvement on the Parkway West at Green Tree, with a sound barrier protecting nearby residences. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation intends to build the project, but funding was not available in the next four-year cycle, and major interchange improvements are not part of the funded Parkway West work, said Dan Cessna, PennDOT district executive.
Also in the plan are $11.3 million for Smithfield Street Bridge rehabilitation, $17.1 million for the Elizabeth Bridge, $15.5 million to repave Route 51 from Lebanon Church Road in Pleasant Hills to Bausman Street in the city, $22.9 million for Glenwood Bridge ramps and interchange, $21.6 million to create a street grid at the former Civic Arena site in Pittsburgh's Lower Hill District and $81.5 million for three phases of Freedom Road improvements in Beaver County.
The draft TIP is available for viewing at the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission’s website; its offices at Two Chatham Center, Downtown; the Pittsburgh Planning Department; county planning offices; and many libraries.
A public comment period is open until 4 p.m. Friday. The commission is accepting written comments at SPC Comments, Two Chatham Center, Suite 500, 112 Washington Place, Pittsburgh 15219 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The commission is scheduled to vote on the plan July 28.
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