Future of transportation: Could we ever see the ‘T’ go to Pittsburgh International Airport?

PITTSBURGH — What is the future of transportation in a city that has long relied on public transportation?

“Our city was built on street cars,” said Katharine Kelleman, CEO of the Port Authority.

But what about T cars, specifically ones that go out to the airport?

Travelers Marty Roethlein and Terri Fedoronko told Channel 11′s Jennifer Tomazic they’d really like to see one.

The Port Authority surveyed the public for its “Next Transit” 25-year long-range transportation plan. One of the most requested infrastructure items is an extension of the light rail transit, or the T, out to the airport.

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The airport corridor also popped up on another local transportation plan: the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission’s SmartMoves for a Changing Region.

Jennifer asked Kelleman if there will ever be a T that goes out from downtown to the airport. “In my perfect world we have a T to the airport,” Kelleman said.

She says they’re getting together with PennDOT in the next year to study the corridor from Downtown Pittsburgh to the airport.

“What’s the best way to go from the end of our busway out to the airport? Do we go through the middle of the highway?” remarked Kelleman.

Right now, the West Busway goes to Carnegie. The 28X Airport Flyer Port Authority Bus serves the corridor from Downtown to Pittsburgh International.

“Maybe a first stage is to put some sort of hardened bus infrastructure that is going out there every 10 to 15

minutes,” said Kelleman.

The Next Transit plan lists the airport corridor rapid transit as 6 to 15 years away, at a cost of $247 million to $325 million.

“It’s very costly,” said Vincent Valdes, executive director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission. “Certainly from an engineering standpoint it’s feasible and it’s certainly something that could be planned for. The question, the challenge, not surprisingly, is the cost.”

A bus rapid transit would be more cost effective out to the airport than a T, according to Valdes. He’s with the regional transit group that helps figure out how to spend federal transportation dollars in our local counties. Before recently signing on as executive director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, he worked with the federal transit authority for years.

“The airport is an incredibly important asset. People recognize that a world class city has a world class airport and then you need to then have world class connectivity to that airport,” said Valdes.

“I’d like to see Pittsburgh develop more. Let’s go into the future,” said traveler Roethlein. “I want to see it happen.”

Pittsburgh International Airport deferred comment to the Port Authority.