Statement before                                   Glenn A. Walsh

  Port Authority of                                              P.O. Box 1041

Allegheny County Board:                            Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15230-1041 U.S.A.

 North Shore Connector                              Telephone: 412-561-7876

      Rapid Transit                             Electronic Mail: < publictransit@planetarium.cc >

   Extension Project                                     Internet Web Site: < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

                                                                                                2006 July 13

 

Good morning. I am Glenn A. Walsh of 633 Royce Avenue, Mount Lebanon. I have been a user and advocate of public transportation for more than 25 years. I was a charter member of the Allegheny County Transit Council, serving from 1984-1989. Today, I am representing no formal organization.

 

The continual escalation of costs of the North Shore Connector project is something experienced in most major public works projects and should come as no surprise to anyone. What is a surprise is that these cost escalations were not anticipated. However, this may be somewhat understandable considering that most people did not expect the great rise in fuel costs over the last year, which is driving the higher project cost of the North Shore Connector.

 

Port Authority responsibly acted, with the first cost hike, by deferring construction of the Convention Center link of the project. Port Authority could responsibly deal with the second cost escalation in the same way, by deferring construction of the “Allegheny Station,” one of the two transit stations planned for the North Side.

 

The other station, the “North Side Station,” would be located about half-way between PNC Park and Heinz Field, providing adequate coverage for both sports venues as well as serving adjacent developments. The North Side Station would also provide reasonable pedestrian access to the Community College of Allegheny County, Allegheny Center, and The Carnegie Science Center.

 

The overriding question here is whether Pittsburgh will continue constructing a comprehensive and user-friendly rapid transit network which reduces traffic congestion, air pollution, and the consumption of fossil fuels. Despite recent losses in population, travel in the Pittsburgh region continues increasing. It is essential that more of this travel be attracted to a rapid transit system, to ensure that the Pittsburgh region does not strangle on traffic congestion and air pollution, as is happening in other cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Houston.

 

It is just plain wrong to think of the North Shore Connector as one isolated project. Originally, it was part of the “Spine Line” project, which would have built rapid transit from the North Side through Downtown to Oakland and the East End. The North Shore Connector is simply one part of a much larger project to bring rapid transit to the Pittsburgh region. Extensions of the light rail rapid transit system to Oakland, further into the North Side, and eventually to the Airport, are absolutely essential for the North Shore Connector to show its real value to the community.

 

Rapid transit projects are very expensive. Hence, they can only be built in stages. Due to the high cost of rapid transit construction, these staged projects will take time to come to fruition—possibly decades. To prevent regional rapid transit expansion from being sidetracked, as it was in the 1970s, Port Authority must responsibly deal with the inevitable cost escalations.

 

Today, that means approving the primary North Shore Connector contract so this contract has no more cost escalations. This also means deferring the Allegheny Station, so additional taxpayer’s money will not be needed to finish the core project: Downtown to the North Side.

 

Thank you.

 

gaw