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North Shore Connector nears completion

Published: Monday, November 7, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:09

The North Shore Connector is nearing completion and is scheduled to be functional in March of next year. The Port Authority of Allegheny County is scheduling test runs for late December.

Parking rates along the North Shore range from approximately $8 to $12 during the regular work week hours. The average night and weekend price for parking is $4, though prices vary during Steelers and Pirates, games. The best deal for Point Park University students is to take advantage of the night and weekend parking rates and ride the Connector into Downtown for $2.75. There is also a surcharge for riders during weekdays between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. on inbound trips and 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on outbound trips. Zone1 and Zone 2 riders will pay an extra 75 cents surcharge. The Connector leaves off at the Gateway station in Downtown which is less than half a mile from campus.

"I don't know how useful it's going to be considering that the North Shore is already so close. I just walk to class everyday," Maria Fusco, a Deutschtown resident and senior biological science major said in a phone interview on Thursday.

Work began on the North Shore Connector in early 2007. It will extend Port Authority's twenty five mile light rail transit system by 1.2 miles.The track will run from the subway station at Stanwix Street under the Allegheny River to the North Shore. There will be three stations on the mile long track. Two new stations on the North Shore will be constructed: one underneath Tony Dorsett Drive and an aerial station along Allegheny Avenue near the Carnegie Science Center where the UPMC Sports Works building was previously located. The Gateway Subway Station, located on Stanwix Street, has been reconstructed.

"I love the idea and I get the location of the North Shore with all the renovations that have gone on over there, but I feel that it needs to be extended, at least maybe to Brighton Heights."  Josh Weiblinger, a North Side resident and an employee in Point Park's dining hall, said in an interview on campus last Wednesday. 

The creation of the North Shore Connector was a vital part of the revitalization of the North Shore. In the late 1990s, the city of Pittsburgh developed a plan to revive Downtown, which included major development of the North Shore. Due to the rapid growth, the connector was the natural and necessary next step. 

"We have some major destinations on the North Shore, the Rivers Casino, the Carnegie Science Center, the Andy Warhol museum and of course the stadiums. There is also [Community College of Allegheny County] which is about a two block walk from the Allegheny station," Jim Ritchie, the Public Relations Representative of Port Authority said in a phone interview last Tuesday, Nov. 1.

Not all of the connector's media attention has been optimistic. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) released a report in 2010 referencing the North Shore Connector as an example of government waste.

"Unfortunately, the North Shore Connector has been plagued with problems since its inception, making it seem in this case that federal officials are throwing good money after bad," the report said, according to articles in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Aug. 4, 2010.

In 2004, the North Shore Connector was named one of the top five transit projects in the country, and the Federal Transit Administration signed a full funding agreement for it. Currently the project will meet its $528.8 million budget which is larger than its originally proposed budget of $430 million. 

"The cause of the major jump in the budget was due to the rising costs in steel, concrete, everything just went through the roof," Richie said.

According to Ritchie, federal funding is covering 80 percent of the total cost, the state is covering 16 and two-thirds percent and three and one-third percent is local funding.

"I'm sure that people will use the North Shore Connector, I just think that it's something Pittsburgh shouldn't have necessarily spent so much money on, considering all the other things Pittsburgh could have used that money for," Susbo said.

There has been talk that the North Shore Connector is a small project in a larger plan to expand public transportation to the Pittsburgh International Airport. The first step is complete, getting across the Allegheny River is the big obstacle, and since that complication is out of the way there is a wide range of options for the Port Authority to consider next.

"[The North Shore Connector] in and of its self is a project that meets the goals of what our community leaders sought to achieve ten years ago" Richie said. No plans to extend the Connector even further are in the works just yet.

"The next thing [the Port Authority is] looking at as a major project is actually the bus route transit system between Downtown and Oakland, that's what we're studying right now, so that has nothing to do with the light rail line," Ritchie said.

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