PA: $142M in federal funding to address congestion, transit along Pittsburgh's Parkway East

Dec. 20, 2023
Planned improvements include building a ramp that connects the Parkway East and Pittsburgh Regional Transit's Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway and allowing buses to run along shoulders of the Parkway East to improve transit commute times.

Dec. 19—More than $142 million in federal funding will be spent trying to address chronic congestion and improve public transit along Pittsburgh's Parkway East.

Money also will go toward work aimed at keeping a section of the Parkway East known as the "bathtub" from flooding when it rains heavily.

The Parkway East, also known as Interstate 376, has long suffered from some of the worst slowdowns in the nation and flooding in the "bathtub" section has been a traffic headache for years.

Planned improvements include building a ramp that connects the Parkway East and Pittsburgh Regional Transit's Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway and allowing buses to run along shoulders of the Parkway East to improve transit commute times. Money would be spent rebuilding highway shoulders where needed to safely accommodate buses, officials said.

Those changes would create a quasi-extension of the busway east to Monroeville.

Chris Sandvig, executive director of the transportation advocacy group Mobilify, said allowing buses to use the highway shoulders should make public transit trips faster and more consistent in eastern Allegheny County and for transit users coming to Pittsburgh from Westmoreland County.

"By linking busways to existing infrastructure like this, we can do what rail rapid transit never can (and) use highways as busways," he said. "The possibilities are endless."

He said the planned improvements could help alleviate congestion for all motorists, not just public transit users.

Sandvig said connecting the Parkway East and East Busway also creates the possibility for transfer-free rides between suburban communities such as Monroeville, Murrysville and Irwin and city neighborhoods including Oakland, Downtown and beyond. He said it should help keep commuter buses from Westmoreland County from being held up by traffic in Wilkinsburg.

About $39 million of the federal funding will go toward raising a flood wall along the Monongahela River to reduce flooding in the Parkway East's "bathtub" section between Grant Street and the Ft. Pitt Bridge.

Other planned improvements include installing electronic signs along the highway that post variable speed limits, depending on traffic, and provide motorists with other advisories. Wrong-way detection systems also are included in the plans.

Money also will be spent on repaving sections of and improving drainage along the East Busway, the region's most used public transit line. Ten bridges along the busway also will be repaired or replaced, officials said.

Four Western Pennsylvania lawmakers advocated for the funding: U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, D- Scranton, and John Fetterman, D- Braddock, as well as U.S. Reps. Chris Deluzio, D- Aspinwall, and Summer Lee, D- Swissvale.

Casey said the federal funding from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package should help improve travel times along one of the region's most traveled corridors. The highway and busway are used by about 100,000 commuters daily, he said.

"Thanks to the infrastructure law, two of Allegheny County's most heavily traveled roadways will become safer and easier to navigate," Casey said.

Ryan Deto is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Ryan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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