30 Years: Welcoming new planes, trains and (high-occupancy) automobiles
Part of the 30 Years, 30 Changes series on the Pittsburgh region
October 6, 2013 8:00 AM
A train at the Gateway Station Downtown readies for a round trip to the North Shore and back in March 2012.
The Parkway North opened in 1989 and fueled a building boom in the northern suburbs.
By Jon Schmitz Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Despite dramatic expansion of the region's transportation network in the past 30 years and a steady population decline, the emblematic daily backups at the Fort Pitt and Squirrel Hill tunnels and on other major arteries have endured.
The biggest change to the landscape was construction of the Parkway North, which opened in 1989 and fueled a building boom in the northern suburbs. It featured the district's first High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, initially reserved for cars with three or more riders, later lowered to two.
Companion projects added the North Shore Expressway and Veterans Bridge in the 1980s. Other major highway and bridge projects over the three decades included the Airport Expressway, opened in 1992 and now part of Interstate 376; the Hot Metal Bridge, which was repurposed in 2000 from a railroad bridge that carried hoppers of molten steel; a new Allegheny River Bridge on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that fully opened in 2010; and the Mon-Fayette Expressway, for which ground was broken in 1973 but no significant construction occurred until the late 1980s. With the opening of segments connecting Brownsville and Uniontown last year, the highway now has 60 continuous miles from Interstate 68 in West Virginia to Jefferson Hills.
Greater Pittsburgh International Airport shaved the "Greater" from its name when a new $1 billion terminal complex opened in 1992.
The turnpike in 2000 began a slow, steady transition to cashless tolls with the debut of E-ZPass electronic fare collection, now used by more than two-thirds of pike travelers.
In public transit, the Port Authority rebuilt its entire South Hills trolley system and constructed a Downtown subway to get rail traffic off congested streets. It retired the 1930s-vintage trolley cars in favor of modern light-rail vehicles. Last year, it opened a $523.4 million subway extension to the North Shore. It debuted the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway in 1983; the West Busway in 2000; and an East Busway extension in 2003.
But service was repeatedly cut across the system because of financial struggles, and ridership today is about two-thirds of what it was 30 years ago.