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Port Authority finalizes plans to enhance Carnegie Station with a $6.5 million grant

By Stephanie Kroll

After years of interest in building an addition on the Carnegie park and ride lot, the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) has begun laying out final designs of a $11.2 million project.

The project has not made ground yet, but it is said to be a four to five-story garage that will house 400 free parking spaces along with retail space.

“Building the garage and doing this process gives us a chance to reconfigure this site and better connect both the park and ride and Carnegie Station to downtown Carnegie,” said Moira Eglar, the Transit-Oriented Communities Project Manager at Port Authority of Allegheny County.

Along with the parking garage, there will be pedestrian and bike enhancements, better transit on sight connections, replacement and/or updated signage, and more ramps and sidewalks around the area to enhance the convenience factor.

On Aug. 24, the PAT’s planning board held an hour and a half long virtual meeting consisting of architects, engineers, project managers, and, of course, the public to discuss two project design scenarios for this specific location.

The meeting was moderated by Eglar and it included key speakers from GAI Consultants Inc. who had direct involvement with the project such as James Yost, a Senior Landscape Architect, Richard Krajcovic, a Highways and Traffic Department Manager, Todd Wilson, a traffic engineer, and traffic planner; Elijah Hughes, an associate at EvolveEA who teamed up with GAI for this project and Karen Brean of Brean Associates who helped out in this project as a GAI Community Planner.

Discussion topics included descriptions of the features in the design such as entryways and exit points, possibly turning the inactive railroad nearby into a trail (if it could be acquired from Genesee & Wyoming Inc.), and reserving an area of the lot for electric buses in need of charging.

As for zoning and deciding if those projects are doable, Hughes made it clear that this particular stretch of land owned by the PAAC is in the D-3 Arterial district which gives the developers a restriction on height and only a 10’ minimum rear yard which could pose as a setback to the railroad plan if the POT does not acquire that land.

When talking about specific zoning data and land use and walkshed analysis that was observed in the surrounding area, Hughes also said, “Everything within…Chartiers Creek, East Main Street, in particular, that’s where a lot of the most active uses are in the Carnegie borough, and these are the types of uses that we would like for Carnegie station and garage to be well connected to, so people can easily include shopping and working at Carnegie businesses into their typical commute patterns”

And knowing that those particular topics were taken into consideration while planning this project is beneficial for not only the community but for the DOT since the project’s $6.5 million matching fund grant was funded by the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ), who, according to their website, “provide funds to States for transportation projects designed to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality, particularly in areas of the country that do not attain national air quality standards.”

Although the project, except for construction and engineering fees, was funded by that climate-sensitive program within the DOT, the Port Authority itself does not have a person on staff to create more of those sustainability decisions.

Brean, of Brean Associates, said, in response to a viewer’s question, “Port Authority thus far has done pretty limited experimentation with renewable energy. In general, we are working toward an organizational sustainability plan. And again, it is not the same funding and certainty of this project, but it’s on the operating side and we are hoping to add a directors of sustainability position that would allow us to think more comprehensively about how we approach sustainability..”

As the Port Authority searches for funds to supply someone with such a position, the next step for this project is to take one of the two scenarios to 10% conceptual design.

That said, the last virtual meeting was on Thursday, Sept. 24 on the Port Authority’s Webpage, where they decided on scenario #2 as the final project and discussed two-phase options within that scenario.

The differences between the two phases include things such as internal gate systems, curb realignment, added stop signs to allow bus flow, and a 3rd Street access point used by buses and port authority customers

But with whatever phase is chosen of the master plan, Krajcovic said, “Moving forward…if all goes well, design could possibly be completed within 2022 with construction commencing in 2023.”

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