The Port Authority of Allegheny County received $8.2 million for projects that are expected to improve access to public transportation, as well as help to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. Almost all of the funding, $7.9 million, comes from a federal initiative specifically aimed at the latter two.
“These investments will go a long way toward improving mobility throughout our region,” said Katharine Kelleman, Port Authority’s CEO.
The Congestion Mitigation Air Quality, or CMAQ, program directed $5.4 million to help build a $7.8 million transportation center in Wilkinsburg, a stop along the heavily-used Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway. Pennsylvania and Allegheny County will contribute roughly $2.4 million.
Another $2.5 million of CMAQ funding will help build or replace four miles of sidewalks in the Port Authority’s transit network. The agency’s 25-year plan, NEXTransit, identifies making it easier and safer to simply get to bus and light rail stops as the number one priority. Sidewalk construction is expected to start in 2025. In total, the project is expected to cost $3.6 million; the state and the county will again help to close the funding gap.
The Port Authority will work with PennDOT, Allegheny County and municipalities to identify which four miles of sidewalks will be prioritized, said Adam Brandolph, agency spokesperson. In addition, the agency will be guided by which areas have the greatest equity index scores. That index looks at who uses a particular part of the network and their age, access to a car, household income, race and ethnicity, and users who may have a disability.
Similarly, the Port Authority will look at heavily-trafficked stops in the system to decide which would benefit from a larger waiting area. The agency will then purchase “rubberized extension pads” that essentially create more sidewalk without pouring concrete. With $280,000 from another federal program, Port Authority plans to purchase the pads for eight stops. Allegheny County will pitch in an additional $120,000.
The funding was awarded by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, the region’s transportation and economic development planning agency.