Western Pennsylvania’s eastern corridor is set to get a massive investment in two of its most important pieces of transportation infrastructure, the Parkway East and the East Busway.
The offices of U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and John Fetterman (D-PA) along with U.S. Representative Summer Lee (D-PA-14) and Chris DeLuzio (D-PA-17) announced $142.3 million in federal infrastructure funding dedicated to the Parkway East and East Busway.
The funding derives from the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and was allocated by the federal Department of Transportation to make way for a long list of improvements and generate 2,500 jobs and add a total value of $254.9 million to the region’s economy, according to the announcement.
DJ Ryan, director of strategic initiatives and policy at the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, the agency that oversees transportation investment in the region, boiled down the comprehensive impact of the investment in a prepared statement: “Once completed, the Eastern Pittsburgh Multimodal Corridor Project will directly benefit the lives of many individuals—streamlining travel routes, enhancing safety, and increasing access for those that live in our region’s eastern communities.”
The funding is expected to both help with needed upgrades to the physical infrastructure as well as implement a host of new modernization efforts to make transportation in the corridor safer, faster and smoother.
The announcement quotes from a 2019 study noted the Parkway East, so often slowed by the Squirrel Hill tunnel, was ranked as the fifth most congested highway in the United States.
The huge grant includes funding to rehabilitate 10 bridges as well as to build a new flood wall along the stretch of the Parkway East that runs near downtown that is nicknamed “the bathtub” due to its inability to keep out too much water during major rains.
The funding will also support implementing new technology to ease traffic from Monroeville to downtown.
According to a summary of the grant allocation by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, the strategy is to implement what it calls Active Arterial Management from the PennDOT Traffic Management Center at certain sections of the corridor.
For the busway, the funding allocation calls for adding a new inbound bus lane along the Parkway East from Churchill to a new busway off-ramp at Edgewood.
The SPC summary also references the investment in electric buses as well.
Funding is also expected to be used to stabilize hills prone to landslides, improve sidewalk safety and improve other bus infrastructure, with upgrades also in the works for South Braddock Avenue and the junction of Route 30, Lincoln Highway and Ardmore Boulevard near Wilkinsburg and Forest Hills.
Senator Casey called it a “generational investment” that he and his colleagues in the Pennsylvania delegation fought for so that ” two of Allegheny County’s most heavily-traveled roadways will become safer and easier to navigate.”
Fetterman, who was outspoken in his opposition to a major highway project in the Mon-Fayette Expressway when he was mayor of Braddock, expects the new funding will prove to be a “game-changing investment” that will help resolve flooding issues, expand transit options and “allow our region’s infrastructure to adapt to the climate crisis.”
Lee, whose district includes many of the communities along the Parkway East, highlighted the jobs to come from the projects funded and how it will “help to right the wrongs of disinvestment and disconnection in left behind communities.”
Matt Smith, chief growth officer at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, called the funding a “huge win for the Pittsburgh region” that he expects will “benefit the community and all who live and work in the region.”
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