2 Port Authority transit center projects slated for this year

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Port Authority officials are hoping for groundbreakings this year on two long-awaited major transit-oriented projects.

Construction could start as soon as late summer on a $34 million transit center at the East Liberty station on the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway and in November on the $36 million Shannon Transit Village in Castle Shannon, said Michael Cetra, assistant general manager of legal and corporate services.

A committee of the authority board viewed presentations on both projects last week.

The East Liberty project would reconfigure the station and surrounding area to make it more pedestrian-friendly and provide better connections to nearby development, including three new residential-retail buildings planned by The Mosites Co. just north of the transit center. It also would have a two-level parking garage with 540 spaces.

"We're on the cusp of making something special happen for transit riders and the East Liberty community," said Paul Svoboda, special projects manager for Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Two existing pedestrian bridges crossing over the busway would be removed and replaced with a new crossing that would connect with a promenade to Penn Avenue. New ramps would be built descending to the busway platforms. The configuration would shorten the walk to the busway from some points in East Liberty by as much as 0.8 mile.

The new station platforms would be 14 inches above the level of the busway to ease boarding and alighting. Canopies above the platforms would stretch 200 feet, long enough to allow three articulated buses to line up in the sheltered area. New crosswalks would be installed at both ends of the platforms.

The gap between the looping ramp and the Penn-Shady Avenue intersection would be filled and that area developed as green space to serve as a "front door" to the transit center.

The project, which has been discussed for nearly nine years, got a big boost when it secured a highly competitive federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant of $15 million last year. It was one of 47 projects selected nationwide from a pool of more than 700 applications, Mr. Svoboda said.

The Castle Shannon project calls for construction of an eight-story apartment building, with retail on the first level, on a deck above the existing park-n-ride lot at the Light Rail Transit station. It would cover about half of the lot's surface, with parking underneath.

The development would have 128 residential units, 14,000 square feet of retail, 537 park-n-ride spaces and 233 spaces for residents and shoppers. It would connect to the Castle Shannon station.

The existing lot, which has 507 spaces, will have to be closed during construction, Mr. Cetra said. "It's going to be a short-term inconvenience in exchange for a really good project."

The idea of developing the space above the lot has been talked about for at least 13 years, said Maurice Strul, assistant director of the Allegheny County Economic Development Department.

About $10 million in public funds will be used for sewer, road and other infrastructure improvements, none of it coming from Port Authority. The builder, JRA Development Group, will make annual lease payments to the authority and pay property taxes on the site.

Mr. Cetra said construction was expected to take three years at East Liberty and two years at Castle Shannon.

On another major project, a proposed 320-unit apartment development next to the South Hills Village parking garage, negotiations continue with a prospective developer, a joint venture of Massaro Properties and Dawson Co.

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Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at www.post-gazette.com/Roundabout. Twitter: @pgtraffic.


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