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Busway as HOV lane refused

By Jim Ritchie
Friday, April 12, 2002

The West Busway could relieve the Downtown congestion caused by the Fort Pitt Tunnel closing by allowing access to car poolers, according to a Downtown agency’s recommendations.

“The agonies of the Fort Pitt closing are showing up as unmanageable congestion in the triangle,” said George White, Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation transportation chairman and former head of the University of Pittsburgh’s Transportation Systems Research Center. He sent his recommendations Thursday to several elected city, county and state officials.

“If you provide relief to both ? using the West Busway and Tenth Street Bypass ? you’ve got it licked.”

Port Authority and PennDOT previously have discussed allowing HOV traffic on the busway as a way to alleviate problems during the Fort Pitt Tunnel closing, but agreed to shelve the proposal because of safety and cost concerns, said Port Authority spokesman Bob Grove.

“It was their decision which we concurred with,” Grove said. “The idea was discussed for a couple of years about using the West Busway as an HOV. There were safety concerns. The West Busway was not designed to be used by vehicles.”

However, White contends that the use of the busway by HOV traffic ? vehicles with two or more people ? and the reopening of the Tenth Street Bypass would clear the Downtown streets that have clogged since the outbound Fort Pitt Bridge and Tunnel closed early Saturday.

White chairs the agency’s transportation committee and formerly headed the University of Pittsburgh’s Transportation Systems Research Center. He sent his recommendations yesterday to several elected city, county and state officials.

PennDOT detours over the Liberty and West End bridges have worked well since the closure. However, getting to them has been tricky, especially from Downtown.

PennDOT had earmarked more than $1 million for Port Authority to use for an HOV system on the busway. At some point, the agencies decided to use the money instead to provide more bus service during the tunnel project.

“The earmarked money was shifted from HOV to putting in additional buses,” said PennDOT spokesman Dick Skrinjar. “The consensus opinion was the money would be better spent by using additional buses in the conventional system.”

White argues use of the West Busway would work better.

“You would double the number of cars each hour going across the Mon River,” he said. “Anybody going farther than Carnegie on I-279 has a beautiful route for bypassing the jam in the triangle.”

The Tenth Street Bypass has been closed by the Sports & Exhibition Authority during the David L. Lawrence Convention Center project. It blocks traffic from flowing from Fort Duquesne Boulevard into the Strip District.

Along with the traffic detoured by the Fort Pitt Boulevard closing, many drivers find they have to cross the triangle to get to the Boulevard of the Allies and the Parkway East. White said the authority’s closing of the bypass, which provides access to Smallman Street in the Strip District, is not necessary.

“They don’t have to do that,” he said. “They use it to store stacks of materials and position cranes. It’s convenient for them to use it as a front yard to construction.”

The authority plans to completely reopen the bypass in March 2003. Calls left with the authority seeking comment yesterday were not returned.

Jim Ritchie can be reached at or (412) 320-7933.

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. © The Tribune-Review Publishing Co

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