Mon-Fayette Expressway might never run to Pittsburgh
From 1990 to 1994, I reverse-commuted to Monroeville from Robinson and later McCandless, every day, by bus. This is why and when I developed an interest in promoting public transit.
During this period, I had plenty of opportunity to compare travel times between downtown and Monroeville, going both directions, at all different times of day and days of the week. I would compare the difference in travel times between driving there and busing there. I would also compare relative comfort of travel between car and bus.
Physically, nothing is different between an August 1990 trip and an almost-August 2016 trip via the two modes. Same roads, same bus routes, same travel times and conditions, same brick streets in Wilkinsburg. True, there are a couple more miles of East Busway now vs then, but that extension is not used by the Monroeville express bus.
I mention all this because the primary difficulty in getting people to use transit instead of driving is the level of difficulty and lack of comfort in traveling between the Parkway East and the East Busway. Inbound morning riders still have to sit on a bus stuck on the Parkway East tunnel traffic from the Penn Hills exit to the Wilkinsburg off-ramp, then get tossed about for almost 15 minutes on brick or unevenly paved Wilkinsburg back streets, when you’re moving at all. Yes they bypass the rest of the tunnel backup, but it isn’t much faster. Outbound, much the same — the Busway bypasses the daily tunnel backup, but it takes almost 15 minutes to get from the Busway ramp to the outbound Parkway, and it isn’t pretty.
All in all, when including the time necessary to transfer downtown and wait for the Holiday Park bus to show up, travel by car is still 20 minutes faster than by bus, even with the tunnel backup. That’s a doorknob-to-desk comparison — my house to my desk at the Westinghouse Energy Center (or whatever it is now). Absent all other reasons, the only figure that matters to anyone is elapsed travel time. Nobody ever asked me how much it cost me to travel from A to B — about one-fourth what the car was — or that I could get plenty of work-work done on the way home, or pleasure reading done on the way in. Irrelevant. No, the only thing that mattered was 45 minutes by car, 85 by bus, each way.
BUT THE FIX IS WITH TRANSIT, NOT HIGHWAYS. The solution to the problem is not to spend one or two or five billion for a new major expressway, tolled or not, but to improve the means of transfer from Busway to Parkway. Look at the connection from the West Busway to the Parkway West. That’s a direct hookup which takes only a minute or so. That is what’s needed east of town. One minute, not 15; a short, smooth ramp, not two miles of warbly brick streets.
THE PROBLEM IS EDGEWOOD. Edgewood Boro has always been a pain in the ass about transit. The whole East Busway could have been built to McKeesport and Murrysville in 1982 if Edgewood had played nicely. They didn’t then, so the Busway ended at Wilkinsburg until 2003. They didn’t again in 1997 when the extension to Rankin was being laid out. The extension got built despite Edgewood’s stupidity — which, by the way, was based almost exclusively on racism and fear. But no station, no park & ride, no linear park like exists along the entire rest of that extension.
THE SOLUTION IS TO BULLDOZE A PIECE OF THE TOWN. And nobody wants to do that. Somewhat justifiably. To make a connection, they’d have to either take a large chunk out of the back of Edgewood Towne Center, or eliminate a street bridge, Elm/Chestnut Street, cutting a neighborhood in half.
So, the boo-fucking-hoo part of this is that in order to fix a transit problem, they’d have to cut a wealthy, lily-white boro in half RATHER THAN a down-and-out, black/brown/mixed bit of the county — Duquesne, Rankin, Braddock. Again, flat-out racism.
Please keep us posted on hearing dates. This thing has crooked politicians written all over it.
It would be such an unexcusable waste of money and would destroy many neighborhoods between Jefferson Hills and Monroeville if it went through. Everyone talks about the economic benefit of it… no. The economic benefit lies in connecting these towns to downtown via alleviating existing stress on 51 and 376 by creating reasonable public transit options.
The West Mifflin meeting is Tuesday, AUgust 9th from 6-8 pm at the Skyview fire hall (off lebanon church just down the road from the holiday inn)
Other locations and more details here:
I’ll save you a click:
Meeting Purpose: To inform the public about the re-initiation and modification of the Mon/Fayette Expressway, PA Route 51 to I-376 project and obtain feedback.
Meeting Dates and Locations:
Tuesday, August 9, 2016, Location: Skyview Volunteer Fire Department, 660 Noble Drive, West Mifflin, PA 15122
Wednesday, August 10, 2016, Location, Carlow University, St. Agnes Center, 3333 Fifth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Tuesday, August 16, 2016, Location: Gateway Middle School Gym, 4450 Old William Penn Hwy, Monroeville, PA 15146
Wednesday, August 17, 2016, Location: Woodland Hills Junior/Senior High School Auditorium, 2550 Greensburg Pike, Pittsburgh, PA 15221
Time: 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Format: Open House
I attended tonight. There were tons of people there and most seemed opposed. The only non-turnpike guy supporting it was a guy who wants them to build it so that they’ll put in a traffic light near his development (a rather expensive traffic light). People were concerned about everything from losing their homes to the highway disturbing abandoned coal mines. Maps are available here: https://www.patpconstruction.com/monfaysb/PublicInvolvement.aspx
This one maps out the whole project: https://www.patpconstruction.com/monfaysb/pdf/MeetingBoards/MappingBoardKey_Overview.pdf
The final Mon-Fayette extension open house is tonight. Since it’s an open house (not a presentation), getting there at the opening time is not necessary.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016, Location: Woodland Hills Junior/Senior High School Auditorium, 2550 Greensburg Pike, Pittsburgh, PA 15221. Time: 6:00 – 8:00 PM
It is the trib, so the reporting is suspect, but the article makes it sound like this is a done deal. My understanding is that this is yet another time they’ve revived the plans and nothing is certain. Which interpretation is right?
Don’t forget that this is being driven by the legislature. The PennDOT site (https://www.patpconstruction.com/southern_beltway/default.aspx) says it was Act 89 in 2013 (http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/li/uconsCheck.cfm?yr=2013&sessInd=0&act=89) that “provided a new funding stream needed to accelerate progress on the next stage of the Southern Beltway.”
So, as PennDOT sees it, they’re complying with the requirements the legislature is putting on them. I think that the public meetings are part of the required planning. But they don’t necessarily have to act on anything anybody says in the meeting. Certainly they haven’t when cyclists have advocated for bike infrastructure as part of their projects.
One other thing: this shows the disadvantage of Pennsylvania’s tradition of extremely local governments. If there were a few municipalities involved they might be able to have a big enough political voice to keep the Mon-Fay from being built through their communities, the way Pittsburgh has. But with many tiny governments PennDOT can pretty much do what they are planning.
I went to the open house last night and the mood of the event was “this is going to happen, take a look at these maps to see what’s coming”. I didn’t speak with any Turnpike Commission people (there were few) but there were some residents of Turtle Creek and nearby towns examining the maps carefully to see whether their house would be demolished, or how close they would be to this monster. One guy told me he was hoping the freeway would take his house, so he could be bought out, but instead the map showed his house would be one block from the new freeway. He was not happy about that.
At https://www.patpconstruction.com/monfaysb/ it says “Right-of-way acquisition is scheduled to begin in 2018 … Construction is scheduled to begin in 2022.” They are inviting comments until 8/26.
And I guess all this is subject to actual funding. The legislature can say “go ahead, lay the plans” and then choose not to dedicate money to the project for whatever reason, right?
This is going to be a toll road if it is, right?
It’s a toll road regardless, and they do have the money to continue working on it — which is why it’s been resuscitated, and there are all these pretty new drawings to comment on. The money comes from the increased Oil Company Franchise Tax that was part of the 2013 transportation funding bill. The Turnpike’s buddies made transit advocates do a deal with the devil, coupling dedicated transit funding to increased funding for the MFX.
The Trib has ALWAYS reported on this project as if it were a done deal. If no one opposes it in any meaningful way, it will go through, but most of the boosters for the road will be too old to drive on it by the time it’s finished.
There ARE plenty of opportunities to oppose it, though. Write to your local representatives and complain: this project is a waste of taxpayer money, the new alignment provides no benefit to anyone, and we could use the $1.7billion (PLUS) so much more productively if it were re-directed to PennDOT to repair existing roads and bridges. Amend Act 89 of 2013 to re-assign the Oil Company Franchise Tax money away from the Turnpike. And then get together with the Mon Valley Democrats to amend Act 61 of 1985 and remove the PA51-I376 leg of the Mon-Fayette from the list of authorized expansion projects for the Turnpike.
Encouraging that there might be a chance to stop this monster. However, as someone who has driven the pike between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg for the past 20+ years, I think it would take a miracle. I’ve watched them literally move mountains, more than once! This summer, there has been work going on both at the top of Laurel Mountain and then at the Eastern Portal of the Allegheny Tunnel. This is amazing to me because extensive work has been done at both places within the past 15 years. I’m sure there is a justification but I don’t understand why such massive projects were necessary at this time. The amount of money this organization has is incredible. And when you consider that they spend such huge sums, in a state that supposedly has money problems, one has to wonder what is really important to our leaders and citizens. If this project could be stopped and the money put toward some of the items you mentioned we might have a different sort of Pennsylvania in our futures. I’m not optimistic, however.
new study touts MFE and MLK busway extension as mon valley job creators
There is an opportunity to officially comment on the Mon-Fayette Expressway proposal. The deadline is tomorrow (Friday, 8/26/16) and comments can be sent online via the project website.
I’ve outlined broader concerns about the project here. Bicycling-specific concerns include increased traffic on non-highway arterial roads such as Penn and Braddock if the expressway brings further congestion to 376 and 22; the loss of Thompson Run Road – a safe, albeit hilly, road that provides access from Wilkins/Turtle Creek to the middle of Monroeville; and the potential for the project to interfere with or prevent the implementation of the Active Allegheny plan in the east. As a side note, the busway extension has been touted as a transit benefit of the project, but it has been made very clear that it is a separate project and there are no design features in the MFE proposal that are busway-specific (construction of the expressway does not guarantee construction of the busway extension).
Well, looks like the turnpike commission isn’t doing to well financially, maybe that will have a negative impact on the Mon-Fayette Expressway?
Looks like the turnpike commission isn’t doing well financially, wonder how this will affect the MF Expressway
Big point of article is that turnpike has to pay a lot of revenue to public transit which is causing deficits and ongoing too increases. This was part of the I 80 tolling deal that died.
Would make more sense for the state to spread out the pain to all drivers, not just turnpike users, by raising the gas tax or vehicle reg fees or maybe even looking at some sort of system where you pay based on miles driven.
Then again, im 99 percent sure the turnpike commission and penndot are not related. I was pretty sure the Mon Fayette moneu would be Penn dot but the road would be tolled by the PTC? Or maybe I’m confused.
The Wikipedia page says the Mon-Fay is maintained by PennDOT and PTC (also WV DOH). It’s being built by PennDOT, though.
PTC is definitely doing the tolling on the Mon-Fay (parts maintained by PennDOT are untolled). The funds for the Mon-Fay come from tolls & the 2013 raise in the oil tax cap.
A recent loss in court by New York State suggests PA may be forced to stop using turnpike money to fund public transit anyway. (Using turnpike tolls to fund local projects was found to be disrupting interstate commerce, and prohibited by the US constitution.)
Meanwhile, PA’s constitution prohibits using the gas tax to fund transit.
PAT should be a lot more worried about losing state funding than it seems to be.
Didn’t know that about the PA Constitution. Interesting. Thanks.
And PTC wants out of paying for transit and you’re right about the NY court case.
My understanding is that the federal govt ceded part of the interstate highway system to turnpike corporations and as a result they can play by separate rules (billboards, commercial rest stops) but then need to be self funded. I guess diverting the money from these supposedly self funded (self enclosed) roads violates the agreement with the fed government some way.
I said back in 2004 in a Post-Gazette guest column that PA painted itself into a corner in 1945 with that constitutional amendment (Article VIII, Section 11A) that forbids motor fuels taxes from being used for public transport. Recall that in 1945, all public transport was for-profit, taxpaying private industry. It took only 15 years for nearly every transit company in the state to be bankrupt or nearly so, forcing governmental takeover, mostly at the county or municipal level.
A couple years ago, in the “what do these small towns need?” thread, I expounded upon the history at length.
But getting the Constitution amended to remove that part? Rotsa ruck. Far and away, the power base in the state is rural, anti-union, anti-transit. Allowing the gas tax to be raised, state-wide, to fund PAT and SEPTA, is a non-starter.
What about how Cleveland does it? 1 per cent sales tax add on for cuyahoga county to pay for RTA? It isn’t the best, but I’ve taken the Rapid on Thanksgiving day and they run fairly frequently. The bus system isn’t as well planned as the Rapid (that’s because the Rapid was planned along with the suburb o free up in, such that every house was about a 10 min or less walk from the train that goes downtown).
The Mon-Fayette is being built and maintained by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, which has nothing to do with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The project was assigned to the PTC in 1986, when everyone acknowledged that it could only ever hope to be built if it could be financed with bonds, which PennDOT is prohibited from floating.
The current choice between supporting public transit (and thereby screwing the Turnpike Commission) and supporting the Mon-Fayette (by getting the legislature to let the Turnpike Commission off the hook for its Act 44 payments) is the most striking cleavage we’re ever likely to see between public transit and toll road support. The Turnpike Commission has always been very careful in the past to mix support for public transit into its sweetheart deals for more tax revenue from the legislature, forcing everyone to do a deal with the devil — but now it’s much cleaner. It’s a rare opportunity, really. Force the PTC to make good on its Act 44 obligations, and we’ll add another decade in front of the Mon Fayette’s progress.
Is that why the busway extension gets thrown in there when talking about the MFE even though they are separate projects?
Maybe. It’s not the Turnpike who are floating the Busway extension, I don’t think. It’s the boosters who are trying to get the lower Mon Valley people to keep quiet about how little benefit the connection to Monroeville would bring them.
I found this (see below as add media button broken) on a friend’s facebook page.
Didn’t feel this was important enough to start a new thread, since it is only tangentially bike related, but it looks like someone is trying to get a house on Beechwood Blvd rezoned so they can pack in 12 single family houses. This will, of course, add to the traffic on Beechwod, and Beechwood is a big commuter route. The other issue is that if this goes through, will other people start looking for money and sell their property for more multi-family projects, adding much more to the traffic load than just this project alone.
This house is right at the busy Beechwood/Forbes/Beacon/Dallas intersection.
Anyway, again, it is tangentially related, but figured it would be of interest to the bike pgh community.
Drat! The media uploader isn’t working. Anyway, what the sign says is an orange hearing notice for 1830 Beechwood Blvd. Nesby LLC wants to build “12 new single family detached dwellings.” Hearing is Sep 22 at 1030 am at 200 Ross Street, first floor. Plans are available to be looked at on the third floor Board of Adjustment department during business hours in the same building.
That’s significant enough, and enough disconnected from the Mon-Fayette project, that I think it warrants a new thread. If it would help, put as much info as you want into a separate blog post, and link that to your post. For things that have embedded photos, images, videos, etc., I’ve found that to be wuite helpful. Then add an introductory teaser paragraph ahead of the link here.
FWIW, maybe this will have an impact on MF Ex.
Auditor General agrees Pennsylvania Turnpike debt is unsustainable
update about penndot projects being “delayed.”
The article isn’t about the Turnpike Commission reassessing PennDOT projects, rather it is about the Turnpike Commission reassessing Turnpike Commission projects.
p-g had an article today about the next part of the southern beltway being built by the PA turnpike commission, and then extending it out to the mon-fayette after we spend about $600 million.
How does the road building budget interact with the PA Turnpike commission always running a deficit? I can’t figure out if there are two budgets (capital and operating) and thus they could have enough money to keep building while struggling in the other half?
this is a map of how the I-576 extension continues from Route22 to I-79, and shows the interaction with the Montour Trail: http://southfayettepa.com/DocumentCenter/Home/View/279
There was an MFE Extension (Large-Monroeville) meeting a week or two ago and I heard secondhand that the schedule is roughly:
2021 – complete land acquisition in that section of the MFE
2032 – complete construction between Large and Monroeville
This is a monstrous cash cow for the construction industry; your tax dollars supporting the earthmoving, concrete, and asphalt industries to guarantee that they’re fat and happy for the next two decades. Fat and happy building things that we don’t need, instead of spending it on higher priorities: trail building, sidewalk-sweeping, snow plowing, road maintenance and repair, sewer repair, bridge repair, … I guess construction is a lot more glamorous than maintenance.
The PG story @edronline referred to:
Construction to begin in January on next phase of Southern Beltway
Also sounds like 579/southern beltway from i79 to current end of MFE is in works, with the MFE to Monroeville to close the loop.
The only part of the loop that would be missing is a northwest section. Moon/airport to cranberry/79/76. Wonder if there are some plans for that in a drawer somewhere.
All Turnpike projects are funded with debt — it’s the whole reason for the Turnpike Commission’s existence. PennDOT is forbidden to bond for its projects, and the Turnpike is required to bond for its projects. PennDOT is also required to have a public vetting process for its project development, and its projects have to fit into a transportation plan; Turnpike has its projects handed to it by the legislature.
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