2004 April 23
Port Authority of Allegheny County
2004 April 23
In February, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
recommended a Full Funding Grant Agreement for the proposed
With the construction of maintenance buildings on the former main rail yard at South Hills Junction, the Port Authority saw the need for a new rail yard to store extra light rail vehicles, needed only during the rush-hours, in the central city area. As part of Stage I of the Light Rail Transit project, a seven-track—that is five stub tracks and a loop track originally designed for PCC streetcars that can now serve as two additional storage tracks—a seven-track rail car storage yard was built, just beyond the light rail passenger station at Penn Station.
On April 2, I sent a
The information provided to me, mostly from the July 1983
issue of the SIDEWALK SUPERINTENDENT
newsletter issued by the Port Authority to inform the public of rail
construction activities, indicates that the construction of all trackage from
Steel Plaza, past the light rail station at Penn Station, into a Mid-Day Rail
Yard cost $2,000,457.99. The Port Authority Board awarded a contract, to
Massaro Corporation on
A small part of the $2 million contract was used to
construct trackage from
Please note that the Massaro contract did not include the construction of the passenger platforms at Penn Station or changes to the tunnel. Nor did this contract include the overhead electrical wiring. So, the Massaro contract, along with the cost of the overhead electrical wiring, makes the total cost of this rail yard about $2 million.
Now, the problem is this: This $2 million rail car storage yard has NEVER been used for its intended purpose. In fact, it has NEVER been used, AT ALL, for the storage of light rail vehicles! And, the Port Authority now proposes to ABANDON this rail car storage yard. If this abandonment occurs, it will result
in the complete waste of $2 million in taxpayer money—this is $2 million in 1983 dollars. This would be
the most egregious waste of taxpayer money in the 40 years of Port Authority Transit history!
And, this may not the worst of it!
In the mid-1980s, the Port
Authority built several new rail stations along the
Well, if the Port Authority
does abandon the Mid-Day Rail Yard, the Federal Government will probably ask
that all of the money used to build this yard be returned, considering that the
rail yard was never, ever used! And, considering the current financial plight
of the State and County governments, the
Today is not the first time I have complained about the failure of the Port Authority to take advantage of a $2 million rail yard they constructed. About two and a half years ago, I mentioned this matter to Port Authority Chief Executive Officer Paul Skoutelas, after a Port Authority meeting. Mr. Skoutelas provided no response to this issue, at that time.
Attached to this statement is a
copy of the comments I
I was fully aware of the proposal to build this Mid-Day Rail Yard in 1983. But, I thought that if the Port Authority really wanted this yard, it was probably a good idea. I am sure that the Port Authority Board of Directors, at that time, probably felt the same way. Who in 1983, in their right mind, would have thought that the Port Authority would build a $2 million rail yard—then never use it!!!
Why has this rail yard never been used? Security of the light rail vehicles in storage could not be a concern, considering that the Mid-Day Rail Yard is located adjacent to the Port Authority Police Station!
From discussions with Port Authority staff members over the years, it seems that the staff considers access to and from this rail yard, via a “pocket track” near Fourth Avenue, to be a nuisance and believes it could cause switching problems on the Main Line. The designers of the Stage I alignment must have been aware of this design drawback. But the rail yard was built anyway. Obviously, they must have thought that this rail car movement was a problem that could be lived-with.
Once a vehicle has entered this “pocket track,” it is
no longer in the
Now, in combination with this movement through the “pocket
track,” I would suggest the following supplement during rush-hours. Most
rush-hour passengers board or alight trains at the
The storage of extra light rail vehicles, needed only during the rush hours, in a Downtown rail yard would have major financial advantages. A great deal less electricity would be consumed by the stored vehicles. And, there would be less wear-and-tear on vehicles. Certainly, these were the major reasons for construction of the Mid-Day Rail Yard!
Yet, since the Port Authority staff has refused to use
this rail yard, for more than fifteen years the Port Authority has been
consuming a great deal more electricity just for the mid-day warehousing of
these vehicles at the main
The Mid-Day Rail Yard should have been used over the last fifteen years. And, it definitely should be used now. Later this year, the Port Authority staff may, again, ask this Board to approve transit fare increases and/or service reductions. There should be no transit fare increases or service reductions approved, until the Port Authority starts reducing operating costs by using the Mid-Day Rail Yard for its intended purpose!
The Convention Center Subway Line, as currently
proposed by the Port Authority, would require the disconnection of the Penn
Station Rail Line from the rail system. I have been told that grading
considerations make this disconnection a necessity. Yet, the Penn Station Line
shares the same grade as
There is no reason the Convention Center Line cannot connect to the existing Penn Station Line. In fact, I am suspicious as to why the Port Authority staff is so adamant that the Convention Center Line and the Penn Station Line cannot coexist. Could it be that the disconnection of the Penn Station Line, from the rest of the rail system, was seen as an easy way to rid the Port Authority of the Mid-Day Rail Yard embarrassment? Yes, it seems that the Port Authority planners purposely designed the Penn Station Line out of the rail system, so they can pave over this rail yard, and there would no longer be any evidence of the complete waste of $2 million of taxpayer money!
As many of you know, I have been a strong advocate of
public transportation, and of the Port Authority, for more than twenty-five
years. However, it becomes very frustrating, and difficult, to support the Port
Authority, when there is such clear-cut evidence of waste of taxpayer
dollars—money that could have been used to improve public transportation in
Good public transit is very important to urban areas
However, first, to prevent the complete waste of $2
million of taxpayer money, the Board of Directors of the Port Authority of
1) With the
next Port Authority Transit operator “pick,” the Port Authority should begin
using the Mid-Day Rail Yard for its intended purpose: the storage of extra
light rail vehicles not needed for base-period service. Of course, a side
benefit of this action would be to provide additional light rail passenger
2) Plans for construction of the Convention Center Subway Line should be modified to allow continual rail car access to the Mid-Day Rail Yard.