Let’s revisit an old article by Tom Jewell, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, June 30, 2003
The owner of the Allegheny Valley Railroad said he believes the Port Authority of Allegheny County has put forth “gold-plated” proposals for a commuter train running from Arnold to Pittsburgh’s Strip District.
The authority believes it will take about 10 years and cost anywhere between $90 million and $800 million. Allegheny Valley Railroad President Russ Peterson, however, said a commuter rail service could be up and running in 2005 for $25 million. Peterson, a strong supporter of adding commuter trains to his existing freight line, has spent about $2 million over the past two years on track improvements.
“In one of their proposals, they bulldozed everything,” Peterson said. “We’re looking at how quickly we can refurbish the existing railroad. As a private enterprise, we can have it going in 18 months.”
Port Authority officials defended the findings of their $1 million Eastern Corridor Transit Study, saying their projections are not cost-prohibitive, and would go much further in relieving traffic congestion on Route 28, which is traveled by about 75,000 vehicles a day.
“There’s a lot of merit in what they want to do,” said Henry Nutbrown, Port Authority assistant general manager of engineering and construction. “But they’re only talking about taking 300 cars a day off the road, and that’s not going to do much.”
The eastern corridor transit study offered by the Port Authority calls for daily ridership of 6,700, although some of those would be downtown commuters transferring over from buses. Nutbrown said he did not know how many cars would be taken off the highway under the Port Authority’s proposals.
But it’s the associated cost that Allegheny Valley Railroad supporters are questioning, ranging from $800 million for a light-rail line similar to the one running through the South Hills, to $250 million for a diesel-propelled train, to $90 million for a “very low budget” locomotive.
Allegheny County Council president Rick Schwartz, who is seeking remaining funding for a more detailed $500,000 feasibility study, attributes the disparity in costs to having “too many bells and whistles” attached to the Port Authority’s study.
“The Eastern Corridor Study proposal includes brand new tracks, purchasing the railroad itself, four new cars, and state-of-the-art stations,” Schwartz said. “”While these items would certainly enhance the commuter rail and encourage ridership, the immediate concern (is) finding an option for commuters trying to reach downtown Pittsburgh on congested highways.”
Under the plan proposed by Schwartz and state Rep. Frank Dermody, an Oakmont Democrat, the trains would stop in Arnold, Plum, Oakmont, Verona, Penn Hills and the Strip District.
Because of all the improvements and bridgework scheduled along Route 28, Nutbrown believes the implementation plan for a commuter line could be sped up significantly from the current eight- to 10- year projections.
“We believe there are some costs that still have to be figured in, such as the engineering, legal work and environmental studies,” Nutbrown said. “There’s signalization that has to go in and a rigid safety review that is part of minimum federal standards.”
Peterson, meanwhile, said the commuter and freight services can peacefully coexist. While there are areas along the route with double sets of track that would enable one train to pull off while another passes, the Port Authority said there isn’t enough and that a more extensive network is required.
Peterson maintains that the existing track could be rebuilt to commuter train standards within two years. Schwartz agrees.
“It’s a far cry from the estimates being touted in the Port Authority’s transit study,” Schwartz said.
(and Fiori says: There is something drastically wrong here)