Aerial cable cars linking the Strip, Hill districts? Port Authority proposes new ideas

PITTSBURGH — You might soon be able to soar above the bluffs and rolling hills of Pittsburgh in a new fashion: aerial cable cars. The idea is part of a new plan proposed by the Port Authority of Allegheny County.

It’s part of the new Long Range Transportation Plan unveiled Thursday, and is among the most requested infrastructure projects. Over the last 16 months, the agency worked with the public, local groups and community leaders to find out the greatest needs and what the public wants to see built.

>>>CLICK HERE to read the 80-page plan<<<

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the 80-page report:

  • The agency is upgrading the buses to battery electric vehicles. The first two electric buses were deployed in March 2020, and six more are scheduled to be delivered in the third quarter of this year.
  • There is a need for a new bus garage and maintenance facility. The report said the current facilities “do not allow for further expansion” of the bus fleet. The estimated cost for this is from $177 to $234 million.
  • Gaps exist between the growing and evolving neighborhoods from the Strip District to the Hill District, Oakland, Hazelwood and the Carrick/Overbrook areas. A major issue in the area are the cliffs. An aerial tram system could provide a better mode of transit from the Strip to the Hill District. This would cost an estimated $168 to $218 million. Cable cars and Gondolas in the city were among the most requested projects from the public.
  • The report said there’s “an imminent need for $450 million of infrastructure upgrades to ensure the safety and reliability of the currently Library Silver Light Rail Line.” The line only carried about 3,000 riders each day pre-pandemic.
  • With the Parkway East being “one of the most congested and least reliable corridors in the country,” there is the opportunity to expand the East Busway and create a rapid transit connection from Downtown Pittsburgh to Monroeville and the communities in between. Ideas include a shoulder-running Bus Rapid Transit or a center-running transitway separated from general traffic. Estimated costs are $117 to $141 million.
  • Traffic can be a nightmare on McKnight Road and “safety and amenities along the road need improvement.” The plan proposes the idea of dedicated bus-only lanes, upgraded shelters and improved sidewalks at an estimated cost of $57 to $68 million.
  • Rapid transit is currently not available along the Route 28 corridor, leading to delays and backups. There is the opportunity to provide rapid transit from New Kensington to Downtown Pittsburgh with links or stops in Lawrenceville, the Strip District, near the Pittsburgh Zoo, Verona and Oakmont. Planning will include using the current Allegheny Valley Railroad right-of-way allowing freight operations to continue at off-peak hours or overnight. Both light rail and bus modes will be further studied for this area. The estimated cost to build this is $231 to $298 million.
  • The report said there has been a need for “faster and more efficient transit” from the city to the Pittsburgh International Airport. While the idea has been studied several times, the Parkway West corridor is experiencing new growth. A rapid transit connection could help alleviate traffic to the airport. The first connection would be at the current start of the West Busway, would follow the West Carson Street corridor and then have dedicated transit on the Parkway West. This includes shoulder-running Bus Rapid Transit or a center-running transitway separate from traffic. The estimated cost was set at $275 to $325 million.

>>>RELATED: Mayor Peduto wants a new transportation system to connect Pittsburgh neighborhoods, including cable cars

Other projects to explore include extending the “T” from the North Side along the Ohio River to Emsworth, extending the “T” from the North Side along the Perrysville Avenue corridor to Ross Township, and a North Hills Rapid Transit connection from the city to Ross and Cranberry using the HOV lanes.

If all of these and other projects would come to reality, the price tag could be as high as $3.7 billion. The report said about 20% of the money would come from local sources with the majority of the funding provided through federal dollars.

Port Authority officials said there will be a series of public meetings to gather final input on the plan. The meetings are scheduled for:

  • Wednesday, July 21 at 10 a.m. (online),
  • Tuesday, July 27 at 3 p.m. at Schenley Plaza in Oakland,
  • Thursday, July 29 at 10 a.m. at Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh and
  • Tuesday, August 10 at 4:30 p.m. (online)