July 21--A consultant will study options for creating a rapid bus line linking Downtown and Oakland.
A Port Authority board committee on Wednesday authorized a $1 million contract with PB Americas Inc. to perform the study, which will include an environmental assessment and analysis of route alternatives.
Rapid bus has been likened to a light-rail system with much lower development costs. Extra-long buses operate between above-ground stations that are farther apart than typical bus stops. The vehicles usually run on dedicated bus lanes, with priority at traffic signals. Patrons pay fares in the stations, and screens display real-time information about the next arrivals.
A rapid bus line developed in Cleveland has been credited with sparking $4 billion in development along its path. Local officials are hoping for similar results here.
The study will take 12 to 18 months and produce a "preferred alignment" for the service, probably in the corridor of Fifth and Forbes avenues, said Wendy Stern, Port Authority assistant general manager for planning and development. It also is possible the proposed service would be extended eastward from Oakland.
Completing the study will better position the region to compete for federal grants to develop the service, she said.
The study is funded with about $840,000 in federal planning money and $210,000 from Allegheny County.
The project has received endorsements from Pittsburgh and county government officials, Oakland universities and hospitals, and organizations including Sustainable Pittsburgh and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.
PB Americas Inc. was among six companies that submitted proposals to do the study. According to the authority, it has been involved in planning, design or construction of 35 bus rapid transit projects in the U.S. and more than 60 worldwide. Ms. Stern said additional funding sources will be sought to increase the contract to $1.5 million.
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868.
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