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Pa.'s FIRST underwater tunnell moves ahead

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http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04143/320356.stm

Work is a year away on river transit tunnels

Saturday, May 22, 2004

By Joe Grata,

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE

By this time next year, construction is supposed to be under way on twin tunnels beneath the Allegheny River to carry an extension of the light-rail system to the North Shore.

The contract to mark the start of the $363 million project could be awarded by late fall, said Henry Nutbrown, the Port Authority's engineering and construction manager. Meetings have already been held to qualify potential bidders for the highly specialized work.

"We want contractors who know what they're doing and can hit the ground running," he told authority board members yesterday. "Boston was good training" for the candidates, referring to the $13 billion "Big Dig" that involved building state-of-the-art tunnels in Boston.

He estimated the cost of boring the twin tunnels will range from $50 million to $60 million. That's less than the state spent for Fort Pitt Bridge and Tunnel improvements and repairs.

Nine more contracts are to be awarded next year for other parts of the Port Authority's 1.6-mile project, including four stations, a separate extension from Steel Plaza Station to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and power, signal and communications work. The authority has an option with the firm manufacturing 28 light rail vehicles for the South Hills system to supply eight more LRVs for the expanded system.

The tunneling contract will cover a stretch between Penn Avenue on the Downtown side and General Robinson Street on the North Shore. Basically, the line will be extended from a new Gateway Center station north under Stanwix Street and then the Allegheny River. It'll emerge from underground at a point northwest of PNC Park.

A 300-ton tunnel boring machine will cut through earth and rock and worm its way 66 feet below the river surface. It will be the first tunnel in Pennsylvania built underwater for transit or motor vehicles.

Authority officials are working out details of a "full-funding agreement" by which the Federal Transit Administration will pay up to 80 percent of project costs. They are counting on a $55 million allocation next year to start construction, with an eye toward opening everything in mid-2008.

Funding for capital improvements comes through a separate program whose money can't be used to help bail the authority out of problems in its operating budget, such as the estimated $30 million deficit it foresees for the 2004-05 fiscal year.

Nutbrown said that while the North Shore line and convention center spur, once finished, will generate up to 10,000 new rides a day, they'll require subsidies just like all public transit systems here and around the nation.

An in-house study projects that in 2009, the first full year, the North Shore Connector Project will take in $2.7 million in fares but cost $5.3 million to operate for everything from operator wages to lights and power bills, resulting in a $2.6 million deficit. By 2019, the annual deficit is projected to drop to $1.4 million.

Nutbrown said the deficits are in a range "we can handle" based on economies the project also gives the agency, including more efficient operations through Downtown, where the Gateway Center Station's inability to handle more than one LRV at a time adversely impacts the rest of the system.

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Evergrey,

thats right first time since 1993 right? not a MAJOR line but any extension of the system is useful, I think it opened last weekend right?

Is the line to the South Hills Village still operational? I have heard they closed that branch down and just kept the one to Library still running.

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Evergrey,

thats right first time since 1993 right? not a MAJOR line but any extension of the system is useful, I think it opened last weekend right?

Is the line to the South Hills Village still operational? I have heard they closed that branch down and just kept the one to Library still running.

Yes, you are correct. The Overbrook line closed in 1993 because it was structurally unstable, and it's been rebuilt.

The South Hills Village line still is operational. However, I had heard from a friend that the South Hills Village stop was closed temporarily for construction...

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I'm wondering why we can't use the East and West Busways to put light rail on or "els" on. That would be somethng else.

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I'm wondering why we can't use the East and West Busways to put light rail on or "els" on. That would be somethng else.

I agree. The original plan with the East Busway was to eventually convert it to light rail. I hope they still intend to do so. The East End could really use a T extension.

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I agree Gerbil, it is long overdue, but in addition to converting the busways I want to see an Oakland branch (the Universities, Pitt, CMU, Carlowe, Duquesne) extension and one all the way to the airport, can't wait for Maglev!

When I get some more time (eventually) I want to post some links about the subway (and skyway) systems that never materialized in Pittsburgh, there are a lot of stories and lessons behind those.

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"We want contractors who know what they're doing and can hit the ground running," he told authority board members yesterday. "Boston was good training" for the candidates, referring to the $13 billion "Big Dig" that involved building state-of-the-art tunnels in Boston.

Actually, Boston's cross harbour tubes did not utilize the Tunnel Boring Machines that this articles states will be used in Pittsburgh. The Ted Williams Tunnel was built with prefabricated tunnel sections sunk into trenches dredged into the harbour floor. The tunnel sections were built in Baltimore and floated up the coast on barges.

The Fort Point Channel section consists of tunnel sections built onsite and floated into trenches on the channel floor.

Tunnel Boring Machines were used to build the Channel Tunnel between the UK and France.

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I agree Gerbil, it is long overdue, but in addition to converting the busways I want to see an Oakland branch (the Universities, Pitt, CMU, Carlowe, Duquesne) extension and one all the way to the airport, can't wait for Maglev!

When I get some more time (eventually) I want to post some links about the subway (and skyway) systems that never materialized in Pittsburgh, there are a lot of stories and lessons behind those.

Yes, Oakland could definitely use a subway extension. If the east busway were converted to light rail, it would go past Oakland along Centre Ave, but not into the university area. Maybe a station could be built along the busway, and a tunnel dug for a branch toward Pitt and CMU. People could ride from Downtown and transfer at that station.

Or else there could be a branch starting at Firstside Station, going through Soho and into Oakland.

Unfortunately, it would have to be either underground or elevated in Oakland, since that area is so congested and can't afford to lose traffic lanes.

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Nice. I would have assumed there were already tunnels in Pittsburgh.

There are several tunnels in Pittsburgh, but NO UNDER WATER tunnels in the whole state including river-locked Philadelphia!

Liberty Tunnels

Ft. Pitt Tunnel

Squirrel Hill Tunnel

Armstrong Tunnel

are just a few of the terrestial tunnels in Pittsburgh,

Pittsburgh is also the only city other then Denver to have a terristial Interstate Tunnel!

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I'd like to see this North Shore extension eventually extended up into the North Side, and then up the McKnight Road corridor.

I'd also like to see an East End extension (it could parallel the Martin Luther King Jr. Busway for a while) that can eventually be extended out to near Monroeville.

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Gerbil and DBR great points, the extension north could also use the HOV lanes on I-279 and then build new subway or skyway along McKnighmare Road to the north. I love the idea of the East Busway being used for a rapid transit train, and Gerbils suggestion that the "University link" comes in from behind along Bigelow and Craig Streets. Although that kinda leaves Duquesne and Carlowe out of the mix somewhat on an "all university" extension.

The Monroeville option would be taken care of if we could ever get MagLev off the ground in this town!

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how bout rail extension to the airport? and possibly connecting the Ohio River communities of Aliquippa, Monaca, Beaver, New Brighton and Beaver Falls?

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Airport should have Maglev in a few years, it is shocking though we are I think the only city with lightrail/subway/transit that does not have an "airport link". Chicago, NYC, SF all do, why not us?

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Airport should have Maglev in a few years, it is shocking though we are I think the only city with lightrail/subway/transit that does not have an "airport link".  Chicago, NYC, SF all do, why not us?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I don't foresee any need to tell you the truth. The West Busway does fine in this regard but even then it can only must that dinky 28X Airport bus. Funds would be better utilized on a Downtown to Oakland line.

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By the way, I don't know why they keep on calling these *Pennsylvania's* first underwater tunnels. The Market-Frankford subway line in Philadelphia has run under the SChuylkill River since the 1950's. The Post-Gazette actually ran a correction for that the first time they called the Allegheny River tunnels PA's first underwater tunnels but nwo they're at it again.

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glad you pointed that out, the PG keeps calling it that but I did hear that Philly had one somewhere.

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As far as a link to Oakland which I like to refer to as the University District--since for out of towners Oakland brings up the one in cali and perceptions of Super Bowl riots--I really would love to see a subway link there I think there is a very accute need for it however PAT did go a long way filling that need with the UV Loop party bus lol. True its not the same as a subway. But for people coming into Pittsburgh for the first time I think the priority should be the airport corridor then Oakland is a close 2nd. ;)

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As far as a link to Oakland which I like to refer to as the University District--since for out of towners Oakland brings up the one in cali and perceptions of Super Bowl riots--I really would love to see a subway link there I think there is a very accute need for it however PAT did go a long way filling that need with the UV Loop party bus lol.  True its not the same as a subway.  But for people coming into Pittsburgh for the first time I think the priority should be the airport corridor then Oakland is a close 2nd.  ;)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Demographically, however, the number of visitors who go from the Airport to Downtown Pgh is far less than the number of commuters in the Oakland to Downtown corridor. Also, most of those people will opt to take a cab in any event. I believe that in the cities that have rail transit to the airport, the majority of users are actually people who work in the airport. That said, I don't see a downtown to Oakland subway happening anytime soon either since the Federal Government will likely insist that cheaper options be looked at first before funding it. Since there's already the East Busway linking Downtown to Oakland, the Feds will likely say "Youv'e got it already, why waste our money". For the same reason, the West Busway will block any hope for an Airport to Downtown link.

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If I ever win the jackpot i'll dig both routes myself ;)

I ran a search on Pittsburgh Subway History and found out that plans have been kicked around for an E. Liberty and another route to the Universities since the 1910s--there were actually complaints on how no progress had been made on it in the 1930s. Then again Pittsburgh had one of the worlds best trolley systems up until the 1960s--better then San Frans in some experts opinions--so the need wasn't as urgent back in the day.

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