Pittsburgh Bus Rapid Transit Project Costs Rise, Undergo Scope Revisions

Pittsburgh’s Bus Rapid Transit project is still on track to upgrade stations and improve bus reliability between the city’s two biggest business districts – Downtown and Oakland – but officials now say the project will cost more expensive than originally expected, and some of its scope is shrinking.

On Thursday, Pittsburgh Regional Transit Director of Development David Huffacker provided an update on BRT at the Planning and Stakeholder Relations Committee meeting. He said costs would rise to $291 million and that downtown infrastructure upgrades and improvements to more remote BRT branches would not be included in the project as currently funded. Initial cost estimates for BRT ranged from $225 million to $250 million.

Huffaker said Pittsburgh Regional Transit considered contingency costs suggested by New York-based McKissack & McKissack, the federally licensed consultants for the BRT project. He said PRT had to deal with rising costs caused by supply chain issues.

“We will still maintain the core area of ​​Downtown, Uptown and Oakland, and that’s where the heaviest infrastructure improvements will be installed anyway, but future branch-related work will come in a future phase,” said Huffaker.

The BRT plans to provide dedicated bus lanes, improved stations, ticket machines, real-time monitors, shelters, benches, dedicated transit lanes, benches, protected bike lanes, access improved pedestrian and signals between downtown and Oakland.

PRT has long struggled with buses clustered along Oakland and downtown, resulting in some buses being overcrowded and others almost empty. The agency hopes the BRT can alleviate this problem, upgrade stations with improved amenities, and improve bicycle and pedestrian access along the Fifth-Forbes corridor.

From points east of Oakland, BRT buses will run the streets to Highland Park, Squirrel Hill and the Mon Valley. Initially, it was planned to improve preferred lanes and upgraded stations in these neighborhoods, but these are now outside the scope of the project. Huffaker pointed out that these improvements could be added later.

Also outside the project, underground utilities work for the BRT’s Downtown Loop.

Huffaker said the city is still a long way from finalizing those plans, and PRT hopes to begin construction of the downtown loop in the spring of 2023. The BRT project is now moving into two phases, with the first phase focusing on the downtown loop. downtown and the second phase focused on Uptown and Oakland improvements.

Funding for Huffaker BRT comes primarily from federal dollars, and cost increases are also primarily funded by federal funds. The $291 million prize is split between approximately $178 million from the federal government and $112 million from local sources: $73 million from PRT, $30 million from Allegheny County and approximately $9 from the city. of Pittsburgh.

Despite the reduced range, Huffaker said Uptown and Oakland should still receive improved underground and overhead infrastructure for BRT.

In addition, PRT will progress faster than expected in the acquisition of electric buses for the BRT, thanks to the combination of this part of the project with another PRT project.

Huffaker said this means the acquisition of electric buses and 60-foot buses need not be overseen by the Federal Transit Authority and will speed up the process. He said the effort to add smart signaling technology, which gives buses priority at intersections and stop lights, will begin after the BRT is built.

The Uptown/Oakland phase of the BRT is scheduled to begin construction in the spring of 2024. Huffaker said PRT is about to issue bids for work on the downtown loop and hopes to begin construction in the spring of 2023.

“We are excited to know where the project is at and what it will bring to the community,” Huffaker said.

Ryan Deto is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Ryan by email at rdeto@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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