Saturday, September 09, 2006

What a waste: Tunnel work set for October - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Tunnel work set for October - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Somethings you just wish would 'go away.' At today's meeting on new ideas, someone said, "I wish that the casino's and gambling would just go away."

On today's AM 1360 radio show with Ron Morris, he was blue because Lynn Swann, PA Governor candidate, was doing so little -- and not even going to raise a stink about the tunnel under the river. The tunnel is not favored by anyone, so pondered Ron Morris.

Wonder what the new mayor, Luke, will say about the tunnel?

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Full article

Tunnel work set for October

Pittsburgh region's big-ticket government projects:

Heinz Field: $264 million

PNC Park: $274 million

David L. Lawrence Convention Center expansion: $373 million

North Shore Connector: $435 million

Pittsburgh International Airport: $800 million

Sources: Sports & Exhibition Authority, Port Authority of Allegheny County, Allegheny County Airport Authority

By Jim Ritchie
Saturday, September 9, 2006

Pittsburgh's big dig is about to begin.

The Federal Transit Administration has agreed to pay 80 percent of the $435 million expansion of the controversial T subway extension from Downtown to the North Shore, the Port Authority of Allegheny County announced Friday.

Work on the five-year project, featuring 2,400-foot twin tunnels beneath the Allegheny River, will start later this month.

Many residents and public officials remain unconvinced the project will bring the economic benefit and growth touted by authority leaders.

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"Bad idea -- waste of money," said transit rider Tara Finizio, who rides daily from her Shaler home to the Bidwell Training Center, Manchester. "There's enough bus service now."

Some authority board members aren't brimming with optimism, either.

"If we could start from the beginning, I might look for an alternative, but we're not," said board member Charles Martoni. "We're 10 years into this thing. I don't think we have any choice."

Within weeks, surveyors will begin locating buried utility lines by digging small holes Downtown and on the North Shore. Relocation of the lines starts in October. That's when motorists will begin to find closed lanes on main routes such as Stanwix Street, 10th Street Bypass and Fort Duquesne Boulevard.

The authority hired North Shore Constructors, a joint venture of West Mifflin's Trumbull Corp. and San Francisco-based Obayashi Corp., for $156.5 million to complete the first phase of work. The 1.2-mile expansion is due to open by summer 2011.

The Port Authority predicts it would help the growing North Shore, where Equitable Resources and Del Monte have relocated headquarters between PNC Park and Heinz Field. A hotel and more offices are planned.

"This is great news for us," said Port Authority Construction Manager Henry Nutbrown. "We've been working on this project from the planning stages since 1999."

Still, critics remain leery.

"It doesn't matter what we think because they've got the federal money and they're going to spend it," said Edgewood bus rider James Ofcansi. "This isn't going to be like a New York City or Chicago -- there is not going to be people riding all the time."

County Chief Executive Dan Onorato supports the project because he does not want to lose the federal money, yet said he would have preferred to expand elsewhere first. Through his spokesman, he referred questions to the Port Authority.

The project was proposed by former Mayor Tom Murphy and backed by previous county administrations.

The tunnel-boring equipment is scheduled to arrive next year and begin carving the tunnels under the river about August 2007, Nutbrown said.

After construction bids came in above the initial budget of $393 million, the authority successfully sought more grants from the Federal Transit Administration. The price tag is now $435 million.

The federal government is paying about $348 million and the state, $72.5 million. The authority asked the county to pay $14.5 million but County Council refused to budge from its earlier commitment of $12.7 million. It's unclear who will pay the additional $1.8 million.

County Council President Rich Fitzgerald said members will watch as the project unfolds.

"If they move forward on this, it needs to be done in an effective manner, in a productive manner and in a way that it's going to benefit the residents of this region," he said.

Jim Ritchie can be reached at or (412) 320-7933.