Pittsburgh (Stage 2 Light Rail Rehabilitation)

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Stage II Light Rail Transit Reconstruction Project

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

(November 1996)

Description During the 1980s, 13 miles of the 25-mile rail system in Pittsburgh were reconstructed to light rail standards under the Stage I Light Rail Transit (LRT) project. The Stage II system consists of the Overbrook, Library, and Drake trolley lines, which comprise the remaining 12 miles.

The Stage II project would reconstruct these three lines to LRT standards, double-track the single-track segments, replace antiquated trolleys with new light rail vehicles, and add approximately 2,500 park and ride spaces and 27 new light rail vehicles.

The estimated cost of this project is $414 million (escalated dollars). In 2005, the estimated daily ridership for Stage II is expected to be 25,000 with over 49,000 riders for the entire light rail system.

Status Section 3035(ss) of ISTEA directed FTA to sign a multiyear grant agreement with the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) for $5 million to complete preliminary engineering for the Stage II project. The Federal Transit Administration issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the project in February 1996. In October 1996 PAT submitted to the National Park Service the final documents necessary to fulfill historic recordation requirements. The Port Authority anticipates beginning Preliminary Engineering in early 1997. The project is included in a financially constrained long range plan that was adopted by the MPO.

PAT is developing a financial plan to undertake reconstruction and is assuming that $65 million in Section 5309 Fixed Guideway Modernization (formula) funding will be available for the Stage II improvement through 1997. The remainder of the estimated project cost will be funded by a program that is expected to include 80 percent Federal funding from Section 5309 New Start funds, Section 5309 Fixed Guideway Modernization funds and ISTEA Flexible funds (including CMAQ funds) matched by Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Allegheny County funding.

Through FY 1997, $64.6 million in Section 5309 Fixed Guideway Modernization funds have been made available for this project.

Justification Mobility Improvements. LRT construction would increase operating speeds on all three lines. The greatest increase would occur between Castle Shannon and South Hills Junction on the Overbrook Line which would be reopened. Many LRT riders who currently use the Beechview Line would be expected to switch to the faster Overbrook Line.

Cost Effectiveness. FTA has no information on the cost effectiveness of this proposal.

Environmental Benefits. The Pittsburgh area is classified as a "moderate" nonattainment area for ozone and has not been classified for carbon monoxide. According to the draft Environmental Assessment, the Stage II reconstruction would remove about 2,000 average daily automobile trips from South Hills roads compared to the TSM alternative.

Operating Efficiencies. Replacement of all three lines with buses operating on local streets would yield operating costs in the South Hills corridor of $1.65 per passenger. Operating costs in the corridor with the Stage II improvement in place would be $1.58 per passenger.

PAT expects 80 percent Federal funding for this project. Pennsylvania has traditionally provided for 16.67 percent of PAT's capital costs with the remaining 3.33 percent coming from Allegheny County. PAT's plan for financing this project assumes state and local participation at the same rates.

In 1991, the Pennsylvania legislature approved a series of small taxes, which are dedicated to transit. PAT's share of this is approximately $40 million per year. These funds are exclusively used for asset maintenance and routine capital replacement needs.

In 1996, the average age of PAT's bus fleet was 7.1 years, which is better than the national average. Rail vehicles average age is approximately 14 years old.

Other Factors The Overbrook Line was closed in 1993 because of the deteriorated condition of old bridges. Reconstruction would bring this line back into service. The Drake and Library lines also would eventually need to be closed permanently if the Stage II project is not implemented.


Source of Funds

Total Funding ($million)
Section 5309 New Start $80.00 ($0.0 appropriated through FY 1997)
Section 5309 Fixed Guideway 152.00 ($64.6 appropriated through FY 1997)
ISTEA Flexible Funds 99.20
State 69.00
County 13.80
TOTAL $414.00
NOTE: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions.