Mon-Fayette Expressway might never run to Pittsburgh
AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe wrote:Hm. Ok. A multi-lane, express highway is going to connect to a two lane (as in, one lane in each direction) cattle chute with no on/off ramps that will dump how many cars into downtown Pittsburgh at the end of Grant Street?
I’m not seeing this?
^What ALMKLM said. Adds more load to the Sqi’ll tunnels. Nerp.
The important thing about the P-G article is that this guy is giving up on a direct connection to Pittsburgh. He would know if there was any possibility of completing it. So that’s done.
The stuff about extending the busway is guff, but I think it does make sense to connect it at Monroeville. I’ve driven it down to California and, once you get on, it’s quite fast. But getting to it requires working your way through the Pittsburgh south hills.
The road is a zombie. You cannot kill it, no matter how many times you kill it.
Each day that goes by, though, another millenial comes of age and doesn’t drive, and another boomer living in Monroeville retires.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
I don’t live there anymore and don’t really have a horse in this race, however, I have to say one part of that plan seems like an incredible idea. Extend the East Busway out to the Mon-Fay but keep it for buses only and build a huge all-season parking garage like the one at the far end of one of the T-lines. Sure people from the expressway could park there, but so could others from Monroeville, Murraysville, etc. and then bus into Oakland or Downtown. This could possbily help with traffic volume on the Parkway East as well. They could even put secure bike parking in that garage and encourage intermodal.
Okay, back to reality.
Here we go again.
“Southern Beltway plan resurrected”
Remember the mnemonic, MFSoB, for Mon-Fayette/Southern Beltway, the official name of the whole project.
This is still separate from the Mon-Fayette, right? It’s under the umbrella of the project, but this highway would be a connection between the airport and 79. It would connect 60 to 22 to I-79 to the Mon-Fayette.
Yeah, even if this is part of the official acronym, it bothers me a lot less than the Mon-Fay. The problem with the Mon-Fay was that the Pittsburgh connection was going to cut through Braddock, Duck Hollow, Hazelwood, and all the development along Second Avenue. While I think money should be spent fixing bridges and repairing roads (and adding bike lanes and mass transit) instead of on this project, the Southern Beltway doesn’t bother me as much as the Mon-Fay per se.
I agree, @jonawebb. I would be pretty upset if the Mon-Fayette were going to connect to Pittsburgh that way. I don’t mind the proposed connection at Monroeville nearly as much.
Regardless, this highway is only 12 miles and will connect the Mon-Fayette to the airport and 79. All in all, it doesn’t sound too bad.
Here’s a proposal for measures that would cost 1/1000 of the Southern Beltway and Mon-Fayette Expressway that would benefit the public more: paint the ceiling of the Squirrel Hill Tunnel white, to make it brighter, put up Minimum Speed Limit signs before and in the tunnel, and give out several $100 fines daily, henceforth, to people violating the minimum speed limit.
Chris Christie has given “traffic studies” a bad name, but some real traffic studies are needed regarding the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.
jonawebb wrote:the Southern Beltway doesn’t bother me as much as the Mon-Fay per se.
I was thinking along similar lines. Granted, it’s shameful that the funds aren’t being used to fix existing infrastructure, and a horrible waste of tax dollars. But if the state wants to blow this huge nut on a ridiculous connector through the South hills, and that makes it less likely there will EVER be funds available to obliterate Braddock, then hey, have at it.
Don’t get complacent. It’s all been approved, and this merely indicates that the funding stream is now in place. Brimmeier said he would go mile by mile, if necessary, to build the damn thing.
StuInMcCandless wrote:Don’t get complacent. It’s all been approved, and this merely indicates that the funding stream is now in place. Brimmeier said he would go mile by mile, if necessary, to build the damn thing.
Nope, sorry, it’s not approved. The environmental impact statement has expired, and they would need to get a new one. And that would run into a major roadblock now that Peduto is in office. Even Murphy, who supported the original EIS, did so because he was threatened with not getting state funding for the stadiums if he didn’t.
The connection to Pittsburgh is not approved, and there is no funding stream in place for it.
You might be right about the EIS, but I am pretty sure that lifting the cap on the wholesale fuel tax funds the MFSoB. 14% of that tax money is a dedicated revenue stream specifically for that project.
Stu, regarding the Jefferson-to-Pittsburgh section, again, please go back and read aboykowycz’s comment about the inability to negotiate easements with the railroad(s), and then look into whether PennDOT or the Turnpike Commission can exercise the power of eminent domain to condemn an easement for the MFX across a railroad, which also has the power of eminent domain. With all due respect, you are overlooking a core issue of property rights that exists regardless of whether there is funding or a current EIS.
This story discusses the impact of the new gas tax on the Mon-Fay. Stu is right that there is dedicated money for the Mon-Fay (the story says 12%). It’s clear from the story that there still are people who want it to run to Pittsburgh. But the story doesn’t address the other issues raised here. Given the various legal difficulties for the connection to Pittsburgh, the development that has occurred and is continuing to occur along the Mon where the Mon-Fay would run, I think it’s very unlikely there will be a direct connection to Pittsburgh. Monroeville is much more likely.
In any case, it’s not an approved project, and getting it approved would require Pittsburgh’s Mayor to agree.
BTW the story says the new tax goes 50% to transit here and in Philadelphia. That’s a pretty good mix — 50% transit, 12% Mon-Fay. Still, could be better.
MFSoB. . . . is that really official, because I see a different acronym there.
Lifting the cap on the OCFT does not fund the MFX to Pgh or Monroeville. There would need to be an additional funding stream approved. It will not happen. It *does* create a leaky valve within the PTC (look for corruption charges and phony transportation studies over the next 10 years) — in other words it’s a huge waste of money, but it’s not enough to let the PTC acquire any property in the MFX right-of-way.
The Southern Beltway is, however, a done deal. No news there.
Also Brimmeier has been indicted for criminal conspiracy and a bunch of other stuff. He’s not a player anymore.
Lastly you must remember that the Turnpike doesn’t make decisions about whether or not to build the Mon-Fayette, and building the Mon-Fay and Southern Beltway projects has NEVER BEEN about sensible transportation planning. Arguing that the projects are not sound transportation policy is a non-starter, imo. They have always and will only ever be about politics and pork. The only arguments that have any weight with the legislators who can actually do something to kill the Mon-Fay for good are about how much money the projects suck away from other projects they’d like to build in their districts.
aboykowycz wrote:They have always and will only ever be about politics and pork.
This is always true for these large construction projects. The people controlling the legal permissions to build the projects, i.e., the politicians, always require a quid pro quo for the rights. It’s simply the way things get done. And it makes sense, from a certain point of view — they (or really, the people living there) are giving up something for the project — there will be more pollution, recreational areas will be disrupted or become more crowded as more non-residents use them, the road will make travel more difficult in areas it cuts across, etc. — so there should be compensation. And the eminent domain payments don’t cover everything. So how do you convince the legal gatekeepers to support the project? By making sure they benefit.
Just pointing out…
January 21: @aboykowycz said
“Lifting the cap on the OCFT does not fund the MFX to Pgh or Monroeville. There would need to be an additional funding stream approved. It will not happen. It *does* create a leaky valve within the PTC (look for corruption charges and phony transportation studies over the next 10 years) — in other words it’s a huge waste of money, but it’s not enough to let the PTC acquire any property in the MFX right-of-way.”
DOT wants input on Interstate 376
…in which @salty made this comment:
“By the time they send out a survey for public comment, their minds will have already been made up.”
Stu, PennDOT funding and Turnpike funding are totally segregated. The study you’re linking has nothing to do with the MFX.
Reading back over this thread, realizing some of you might be confused about that. PennDOT (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation) is not the same as the PTC (Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission). The two do not share funding streams, resources, staff, equipment, intelligence, political bent or responsibilities.
PTC is the agency charged with building the Mon-Fayette and Southern Beltway projects. The reason for this is the legislature decided a generation and a half ago to prohibit PennDOT from issuing bonds to fund its construction projects. The Turnpike, on the other hand, is all about bond financing.
PennDOT does actually look for public comment on its transportation planning projects because unlike the PTC, PennDOT actually engages in transportation planning. The PTC does not initiate projects. It only builds what the porkmasters command it to build. I suppose my flip comment earlier was misleading in that respect. I don’t expect that the PTC will be conducting broad-based transportation studies, but I do expect there will be new studies of potential rights-of-way or connections for the Mon-Fayette to 376 in Monroeville that will (shh, shhh) go absolutely nowhere. But will produce many fine-looking renderings that the public may be invited to gawk at in firehall galleries. Think of it as PTC’s subsidy for the arts.
BTW, the Authority concept for US road building was pioneered by Robert Moses, who used it to amass power that was unaccountable to anyone but himself (and taught others, including I’m sure the creators of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority, how to do this). Once the state has set up an Authority to do something, the Authority has its own power, funding (from tolls), and can make contracts which, even under the US Constitution, the state can’t interfere with. And the Authority continues to exist so long as it has debt. So, in order to continue to exist, the Authority keeps building.
Theoretically the state controls the Turnpike Authority because it appoints the members to its board. But usually the board is insulated from “too much” state control by having the board member’s terms extend longer than a governor’s term. So, while I guess the situation here in PA is not as bad as it was in NYC during Moses’s time, there is more than a little in common.
Southern Beltway Extension:
12 miles, half a billion dollars = $41,666,666 per mile!
The number of the beast!
I’ve been sparring with some people over the Southern Beltway Project and here are their main justifications in favor of the project. I’m interested in what you folks have to say.
The justifications are:
– The airport is undergoing development and this road will help with the ultimate success of the project.
– It will be good for Washington County.
– Pittsburgh has needed a beltway for 50 years and should have had one by now.
– At half a billion and approx. 42 million per mile (initial segment is 12 miles long and will cost $550 million), that is the going rate for highway construction. They also throw-in at other junctures that it is mostly farmland and won’t require much difficult construction.
– Alternative plans do not address existing bottlenecks and this road will reduce traffic in Pittsburgh.
– It is a done deal (so why bother to question it).
I have always found it difficult to argue with people who actually want the kind of greenfield office park development that projects like this promise to spawn. You might counter with “look at I79, a few miles away. Has Washington PA become a hotbed of new investment since the connection to Pittsburgh was completed in the early 90s? No? Well consider this: driving on I79 is free, whereas the SoB will be tolled. Forever.”
But that’s not entirely fair. There *is* a fair amount of manufacturing along the I79 corridor, as well as the corporate parks like Southpointe. But that’s just it — it’s already really well served by free highway access, and there’s plenty of greenfield space left along the corridor. What incentive do businesses have to relocate to an adjacent corridor that’s tolled?
Also I’m not sure what bottlenecks it’s supposed to be relieving.
a. The absence of a beltway prevented the draining and death of downtown Pittsburgh to the exurbs during the last half of the last century, such as happened to Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, etc. As a result, Pittsburgh is being hailed nationally and internationally as one of the most beautiful and livable cities in the US. If these same people don’t actually see places like Cranberry and Southpointe as the desolate and inhuman shitholes that they actually are, this may be a difficult sell.
b. More highways don’t alleviate traffic and bottlenecks, the GENERATE them. More roads, more traffic. See “Los Angeles”.
c. People whine about taxes when we can’t afford to maintain the road infrastructure we have. Let’s build more. Awesome.
I don’t think the absence of a beltway explains Pittsburgh’s low rate of white flight. There are the Parkways, after all. I think Pittsburgh had less white flight because of its geography, which helped create neighborhoods, secure enclaves where people could feel safe and keep minorities out. Also the unions, which limited and continue to limit minority membership.
BTW, PennDOT isn’t some crazy government agency that is just thinking up these projects on its own. It was explicitly directed to build these roads by the legislature, in PA Act. 61 of 1985 and Act 26 of 1991. The laws are still on the books, decades after they made sense, and PennDOT is still moving dirt.
edmonds59 wrote:More highways don’t alleviate traffic and bottlenecks, the GENERATE them. More roads, more traffic. See “Los Angeles”.
Given the frequent bottle necks at both Fort Pitt Tunnel and Sq. Hill Tunnel for westward traffic headed towards the airport, I disagree. A southern bipass would definitely alleviate a bottle neck (at least during peak hours). The question for me is, does the amount of traffic justify the pricetag?
I’m speaking here as a (driver) representative of points east of Pittsburgh and not as an urban cyclist. Trying to get to the airport from many outlying communities in the east is pure hell (even on weekends and especially when there is a professional sports game). I’ve gone as far as taking the turnpike north-west Cranberry and then back south to get to the airport (indirect, unnecessary miles) just to avoid going through the congestion. A more direct southern bypass would be helpful. It also might help to reinvigorate the eastern suburbs which have lost most of their industry to Cranberry and Robinson/Moon (industry/corporations want easy access to the airport and the frequently backed up tunnels definitely retard development).
The lack of a beltway may have prevented the draining death of downtown Pittsburgh, maybe not. Either way, I think you make a really good point there and it’s worth considering. I suspect that you are correct. At the same time, I think it did create a draining death of much of the eastern suburbs.
Ultimately, I neither agree nor disagree to the merits of a southern bypass… but I’m definitely not outright opposed to it.
Drewbacca wrote:Given the frequent bottle necks at both Fort Pitt Tunnel and Sq. Hill Tunnel for westward traffic headed towards the airport, I disagree.
That’s the exact argument Robert Moses used to justify building more and more highways and bridges. And each time he built a new bridge, it would relieve traffic congestion for a month or two, and then it would start creeping back up, not only there but on other bridges, until it was more than before. @edmonds is right.
What would actually relieve the bottleneck to the airport is mass transit. The same space on the road can move many more people, and since some would shift from their cars to transit, congestion on the roads would decrease.
I recall a quote that floats around in traffic planning/anti-highway circles:
Adding highway lanes to deal with traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity.
Like Drewbacca, I’m not diametrically opposed to the concept of the southern bypass, but I’d need to see some pretty compelling evidence that it would be worth the pricetag.
Thus far, said compelling evidence has not materialized. I don’t even want new roads for MY driving convenience, much less for those whiny, needy easterners. :-)
jonawebb wrote:That’s the exact argument Robert Moses used to justify building more and more highways and bridges.
But the circumstances are different this time around. Overall, people are driving less, people are moving into cities, and the current generation of young people drive much less than their parents and grandparents. In Robert Moses’ heyday, the overall climate was one that favored the idea of “getting away from it all” by moving into suburban areas. That lifestyle necessitated cars for most people, and hence auto sales exploded. Now, with Americans showing a declining interest in car ownership and a desire to move INTO cities, there is no reason to believe that history will repeat itself simply because you built a new highway. The environment is different, therefore, you cannot guarantee the same result.
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