Port Authority of Allegheny County
Port Authority of Allegheny County.

Port Authority of Allegheny County has secured a $99.95 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant to connect Downtown to Oakland through rapid transit electric buses. The agency met Monday with federal officials for the first time since President Donald Trump announced the grant on Twitter last week.

Port Authority announced the $230 million Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, system in 2017 to connect major city hubs with electric buses in dedicated lanes. Last year, it requested nearly $100 million in federal funding to support the effort.

BRT is a bus-based transit system that delivers fast, comfortable and cost-effective services via dedicated lanes and frequent operations, according to the Port Authority website. It generally contains features similar to a light rail or metro system and is therefore more reliable, convenient and faster than regular bus services. BRT can help avoid the causes of delay that typically slow regular bus services, like being stuck in traffic and queuing to pay onboard.

Port Authority has secured a vast majority of the project’s funding. In addition to the newly announced grant, the project will be funded with $35 million from other federal sources, $30 million from Allegheny County, $23 million from Port Authority, $20 million from the City of Pittsburgh, $4.5 million from PennDOT and $2.5 million from the state, said Adam Brandolph, a spokesman for Port Authority.

Funding for the remaining total, about $10 million, is undetermined, Brandolph said.

Doyle, PA-18, whose congressional district includes Pittsburgh, lauded the grant after President Trump announced it Thursday.

“We need more reliable, convenient transit service to ensure all of our communities thrive. This project will be transformative for our city, connecting downtown Pittsburgh with fast-growing areas like Oakland and the East End,” Doyle said in a statement.

“I’m very pleased that the Federal Transit Administration has recognized the merit of this initiative and its importance to our region,” Doyle added. “This project will connect some of the fastest-growing parts of our city and provide a fast, efficient way for workers to commute.”

On Monday, Port Authority officials “had a very productive call with federal officials” about BRT, Brandolph said.

“We’ll continue to complete the design, finalize our funding agreements and begin some pre-construction work, like public outreach and utility coordination,” Brandolph added. “We will be taking some time to discuss with our project partners the next steps before commenting any further publicly.”

Brandolph declined to say who from Port Authority attended Monday’s meeting but did confirm no elected leaders participated. Brandolph said Port Authority will seek public comment on the project. He had no timeline yet.

“We were delighted to get the news about the funding decision and thank President Trump for the financial support of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said in a statement.

About 25 to 28 percent of Port Authority’s service traveled through the BRT corridor in 2019, David Huffaker, the organization’s chief development officer said at a meeting last year. That corridor connects Downtown and Uptown to Oakland, with branch service to Highland Park, Homestead and Regent Square.

In one possible change to existing service, the 61A, 61B and 61C lines would become BRT routes, with service from North Braddock, Braddock and McKeesport, respectively, to Downtown, according to Port Authority’s website.

On Monday Port Authority also launched public engagement for NEXTransit, a long-term planning effort to identify transit needs and opportunities for the next 25 years.

“We’re looking forward to hearing ideas that promote a robust public transit network that is accessible, equitable, reliable, flexible, comprehensive and, most importantly, safe,” Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman said. “Our goal is to ensure that your contribution and input will shape our future service, planning efforts and initiatives.”

Port Authority invites area residents, business owners and other stakeholders to learn more about the project and sign up for email alerts here.

A former news reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, Justin Vellucci currently freelances for a number of Pittsburgh publications and works as a staff writer for the music magazines PopMatters and Spectrum Culture. He has been contributing to NEXTpittsburgh since January 2020. He lives in Greenfield.