Important New Transportation Corridor
Opens in Pittsburgh
by Geoffrey B. Nara, P.E., L.A., Pittsburgh
Most people familiar with the major transportation projects
in southwestern Pennsylvania immediately think of the Mon/Fayette
Expressway when the subject of "important transportation
corridors" is raised. But the opening of another critical
transportation link for the Pittsburgh area, the West Busway,
has the Port Authority of Allegheny County proud.
An undertaking that began over a decade ago, the West Busway
opened for service in September 2000. Where once there was an
abandoned, overgrown, debris-covered railroad right-of-way,
now is a modern rapid transit facility providing numerous community
and transit related benefits.
Planning efforts that were the seed of this new facility began
12 years ago with a multi-model corridor study of the Parkway
West, Pittsburgh's highway link of its downtown and the airport.
This study identified various transportation needs, including
transit recommendations. Further studies and refinements led
to the Busway proposal. After receiving the Federal Transit
Administration Record of Decision in mid-1994, construction
started that October. Six years later, the West Busway is a
five-mile long, two-lane roadway for buses only, that begins
in the Borough of Carnegie and passes through the communities
of Rosslyn Farms, East Carnegie, Oakwood, Crafton and Ingram,
west of Pittsburgh. It ends in Sheraden near Corliss Street,
where it crosses the Norfolk Southern railroad mainline on a
flyover, providing an incredible view of the city's Golden Triangle.
The West Busway provides a rapid transit connection between
the Airport Corridor to the west, downtown Pittsburgh, Oakland,
and other points to the east of the city by way of the East
Busway corridor. It improves mobility within the increasingly
congested Parkway West Corridor by allowing buses to bypass
Green Tree Hill and the Fort Pitt Tunnels, where traffic delays
occur throughout the day, and thereby helps reduce traffic congestion
on the Parkway West. Expected time savings are an impressive
25 minutes inbound and seven minutes outbound. Ridership during
the first month of operation averaged 6,000 riders per day,
with a projected daily ridership of 10,000 by 2005.
The Busway will provide a reliable transportation option during
the pending reconstruction of the Fort Pitt Bridge and Tunnels,
where the Parkway West connects to the city's central business
district. When this bridge and tunnel construction project begins,
a major transportation link to downtown Pittsburgh will be disrupted.
The West Busway will be a key, viable traffic relief alternative.
Some key features of the West Busway include:
- Total project cost = $326.8 million
- Alignment follows an abandoned railroad right-of-way which,
before the Busway, was overgrown and choked with debris.
- Rehabilitation and enlargement of a 150-year-old railroad
tunnel. The 3,000-foot long tunnel was widened from 25 feet
to 30 feet, 6 inches using the New Austrian Tunneling Method.
- Renovation and/or reconstruction of 11 existing bridges,
including renovating and constructing a new, wider deck on
a 70-foot high former railroad bridge.
- Construction of four new bridges, including a 120-foot radius
curved girder bridge constructed under the existing Parkway
- 55 mph design speed.
- 4,936 linear feet of noise walls.
- 191,000 cubic yards of concrete and 4,200 tons of steel
used in construction.
- Interchange with the Parkway West in Carnegie, which provides
for direct access for buses from the western suburbs. The
interchange was designed to allow for future widening of the
- Access points a several locations that allow buses from
feeder routes to use the Busway without the need for transfers.
- Six stations which are fully ADA compliant and patron-friendly,
with public telephones as well as information and security
phone systems. The stations all have attractive, effective
shelters and an aesthetically pleasing, curvilinear design.
- Three on-line park and ride lots providing approximately
460 spaces. Five additional remote park and ride locations
throughout western Allegheny County will provide approximately
2,340 new spaces.
- Local police and other emergency personnel are permitted
to use the Busway, reducing their response time to emergencies.
- 89 prime contractors and subcontractors, including 38 DBE
firms, participated in the construction of the project.
This adds up to an impressive project, fulfilling an important
transportation need for the Pittsburgh area.
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