Port Authority urged to think big

Board member says transit agency needs to pursue development

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Director Jim Dodaro feels the Port Authority needs to more aggressively pursue transit-oriented development to generate more revenue for the financially troubled agency.

Mr. Dodaro said the agency should be more creative and include housing or commercial ventures as part of its new construction projects, like parking garages and light rail stations.

"Why shouldn't we partner and get a piece of the action?" he said at yesterday's board committee meetings, referring to what he sees as untapped opportunities.

He accused authority planners of being "myopic," building assets like the new seven-story, 2,200 space parking garage at South Hills Village and then having to subsidize operating expenses. There also may be opportunities to generate additional revenue from the extension of the light rail system to the North Shore, he said.

"We're generating [higher] losses for this authority," Mr. Dodaro said. "The facilities are not even revenue-neutral."

His remarks touched off a testy debate uncharacteristic of the agency's usually well-organized, sedate meetings.

The blowup occurred after Henry Nutbrown, the authority's engineering-construction manager, recommended retaining Pittsburgh-based Interstate Acquisition Services to provide real estate services for another three years at a cost of up to $1,975,000.

Mr. Dodaro said Interstate Acquisition's contract should be reduced because the firm "is basically a right-of-way firm not qualified to do transit-oriented development." He apparently favored one of five other firms submitting proposals for the work.

Board Chairman Jack Brooks, irked by Mr. Dodaro's remarks, said the matter had been "on the table for five or six months" but he heard nothing from Mr. Dodaro before yesterday.

The divisiveness resurfaced later when Mr. Nutbrown updated the board on plans for a three-story park-n-ride garage and intermodal transportation facility at The Pointe in North Fayette. The Port Authority is preparing to start preliminary engineering for the eight-acre site.

Mr. Dodaro pointed to the facility as another example of failing to "look to the future." He encouraged the agency to "start being more creative ... to generate more of our own money."

Contact Joe Grata at jgrata@ post-gazette.com or 412-263-1985.


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