Casino developer Don Barden has reached agreement with the Steelers and Pirates on an estimated $16 million in traffic improvements around the proposed North Shore casino that could allow for a casino ground-breaking by the end of the year.
Allegheny County Judge Joseph James announced the agreement late this morning. He was assigned to work with the parties after the Steelers and Pirates sued to block casino construction due to traffic concerns.
Under the agreement, an overhead pedestrian walkway will be built from the proposed light rail transit station --- to be built at the current site of the Carnegie Science Center's SportWorks facility -- across Allegheny Avenue to Heinz Field. That walkway is expected to be built before the casino or the LRT station is finished.
The improvements also will include lane controls and signs at the West End Bridge and West End Circle, which will be one of the primary access points to the casino.
The cost of the work will be shared by Mr. Barden, the Steelers, and city, Allegheny County and state governments.
The sports teams agreed to drop their legal challenge.
Judge James said he sensed the parties were close to an agreement and called a meeting Monday that included people from each organization that could finalize a deal. That included Steelers' President Art Rooney II; new Pirates' President Frank Coonelly; Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato; Yarone Zober, a top aide to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl; and John Estes, former chief of staff for Gov. Ed Rendell who is now assigned to the governor's Philadelphia office.
Judge James said the governor's office played a particularly important role in reaching the agreement.
Mr. Barden said the agreement should clear the way for construction to begin once the city approves final design for the casino complex. The major hang-up there is the visibility of a huge parking garage behind the casino building.
More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.