Leaving Wood Street, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from tracktwentynine’s photostream

The development that has occurred in Oakland and the surrounding neighborhoods over the past several decades has brought about a new economy in Pittsburgh. The innovation and invention that takes place in our universities, hospitals, and tech sector businesses has redefined Pittsburgh and will continue to create jobs and opportunity well into the future. However, we need ways to expand our new economy across the city. One way that I have been advocating for since I began on Council is a trolley connecting Lawrenceville, Shadyside, Oakland, and Hazelwood. In 2008, I introduced legislation to Council that funded a study of a possible Pittsburgh Rail Connection between these neighborhoods. The study determined that the railway could carry thousands of people a day from river to river.

1. Reactivating Existing Infrastructure

Similar projects all across the country are transforming communities by making use of existing rail assets. In New Jersey, commuters can ride from Camden to Trenton on a line shared with a freight train. In Albuquerque, commuters take trains into the capital of Santa Fe. In Pittsburgh, this railway could connect some of our region’s most vibrant job centers with the employees they need.

The 2008 study showed that, by repurposing existing infrastructure, we could create a world-class rail line for under $100 million. With plans already in the works for a rail line connecting our northern suburbs with downtown, the opportunity to create a spur running river to river through the city’s East End has never been better.

2. Capitalizing on Transit

Pittsburgh’s River-to-River Rail would capitalize on existing development nodes and create new ones in neighborhoods that have seen chronic disinvestment for decades. The proposed rail stops – at the historic Iron City Brewery in Lawrenceville, at UPMC Shadyside Hospital, at Carnegie Mellon University’s campus, and finally at the former LTV Steel site in Hazelwood – offer access to some of the most exciting existing and future developments in the city. The stop in Hazelwood would finally offer a viable transit option for residents of the neighborhood and would easily connect them with good jobs at our city’s hospitals, universities, and technology centers.

With a combination of federal and state grants, foundation support, and private investment we can build an affordable, modern new transit system that connects people with jobs and spurs millions of dollars of new investment in Pittsburgh.