Pittsburgh Commuter Rail

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Allegheny Valley Railroad: : 

Allegheny Valley Railroad: Position on Allegheny Valley Commuter Rail December 15th, 2009

Allegheny Valley Railroad (AVR) continues to support public transit use of the right of way it owns on a commercially acceptable basis : 

Allegheny Valley Railroad (AVR) continues to support public transit use of the right of way it owns on a commercially acceptable basis AVR initially made its offer in 1999. Although a number of studies have been undertaken, little progress has been made to use AVR’s underutilized asset for public transit. Since AVR made its offer, new commuter rail operations have opened in in Salt Lake City, UT; Albuquerque, NM; Oceanside, CA; Seattle, WA; Minneapolis, MN; Nashville, TN; and Portland, OR. Two new operations are expected to open in 2010, Austin, TX and Denton, TX. The principal reason AVR has made its offer is to generate capital for growth and expansion. It is interested in providing public transit access on a commercially acceptable basis. Sufficient capacity to protect AVR’s freight franchise must be provided in use agreements. AVR believes that an improved line will provide sufficient capacity so that freight can be run at night and transit during the day. Such time separation eliminates operating conflicts between freight and transit and enhances safety.

The Allegheny Valley commuter rail corridor logically extends from the Tarentum Bridge to downtown Pittsburgh. Most of the line is in Allegheny County. : 

The Allegheny Valley commuter rail corridor logically extends from the Tarentum Bridge to downtown Pittsburgh. Most of the line is in Allegheny County. New Kensington PA 366 (Tarentum Bridge Road) East Liberty Steel Plaza AVR Ownership AVR easement, no track NS Abandoned right of way, no track PAT little used light rail line Area where link between AVR and line to Steel Plaza might be built. 21st St. Verona Oakmont Nadine 16th St. Pennsylvania Station Arnold AVR generally follows the downtown Pittsburgh side of the Allegheny River, an area, although developed, lacks a good highway system. AVR connects to Norfolk Southern at East Liberty, PA. The East Busway runs parallel to NS between East Liberty and Pennsylvania Station. AVR has a permanent rail easement from 21st St. to 16th St., about 10 blocks from downtown Pittsburgh. There is potential for excellent downtown access if the little used light rail line between Pennsylvania Station and Steel Plaza were to be converted to be used by commuter rail trains and a link constructed between that line and AVR’s line in the Strip District.

The recent Westmoreland County study showed commuter rail to be feasible, but did not include imaginative options that make it truly desirable. : 

The recent Westmoreland County study showed commuter rail to be feasible, but did not include imaginative options that make it truly desirable. HDR’s recent study for Westmoreland Transit importantly did not look at options that brought commuter rail closer to downtown Pittsburgh than Pennsylvania Station or 16th St. Current technology, used on NJT’s River Line between Camden and Trenton, demonstrates that mixing street running, trolley-like service, and commuter rail is practical and feasible. Such technology opens up a number of options for downtown access that would produce even higher ridership. The option of using the little used light rail line from Pennsylvania Station to Steel Plaza was not discussed. The study did not look at restoring the rail line to Tarentum Bridge Road New Jersey Transit’s River Line uses a mix of street trackage (primarily in Camden above) and trackage shared with freight trains (near Riverton, NJ below). Over 40 passenger trains per day are run in each direction each weekday between Trenton and Camden on a single track. Proven, off the shelf, European equipment is also used on shared trackage in Ottawa and between Oceanside and Escondido, CA. In 2010 equipment similar to that used on the River Line will be operating in Austin, TX.

Use of Allegheny Valley Railroad’s right of way through the strip district : 

Use of Allegheny Valley Railroad’s right of way through the strip district Provides easier implementation than a route over NS to Pennsylvania Station. Concurrence of only one railroad is required. AVR and NS have different interests in commuter rail projects and reaching agreement becomes more challenging with an additional party. AVR does not have to concern itself with precedents set by the agreements for other proposed commuter operations as NS must. AVR has a simpler organization that can be more responsive than NS. AVR’s management is local, and has an interest in improvements in the Pittsburgh area. Allegheny Valley Railroad’s management sees benefits in the use of shared trackage. Safety risks and liability insurance premiums are likely to be reduced as freight and passenger services can separated with passenger running during the day and freight by night. Construction windows can be longer resulting in faster construction at lower cost. Allows the use of off the shelf railcars of European design. FRA does not allow use of such designs on a line at the same time that freight trains are operating. Allegheny Valley’s freight traffic volumes are such that separating transit and freight by running transit during the day and freight at night is practical. Use of smaller European designed railcars allows for more frequent service European railcars are practical for street running. Makes possible the use of existing, underutilized transit assets. Specifically unused platforms at Steel Plaza station and the tunnel underneath the US Steel building may be brought back into productive use if the AVR route is used. European railcars are closer in size to the Port Authority’s light rail cars than the commuter rail trains recommended in the Westmoreland County study. The length of the unused platforms is consistent with higher frequency service