New sur­vey for trans­po­ra­tion plan­ning notes wa­ter runoff and tech is­sues

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Local News - By Ed Blaz­ina

Four years ago, self-driv­ing Ubers were still a dream and prob­lems with flood­ing and wa­ter runoff seemed to hap­pen to some­one else.

But as the South­west­ern Penn­syl­va­nia Com­mis­sion de­vel­ops its fed­er­ally re­quired up­date to its long-range trans­porta­tion and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment plan for the 10-county re­gion, tech­nol­ogy im­prove­ments and a record year of rain­fall have moved those is­sues to the front burner, said Abi­gail Stark, pub­lic in­volve­ment spe­cial­ist for the com­mis­sion.

The agency ex­pects to have a draft up­date of the long-range plan avail­able by April for pub­lic com­ment, to hold meet­ings for pub­lic re­view in each county and to present it for adop­tion at the com­mis­sion’s June meet­ing.

The plan­ning process be­gan in Novem­ber 2017 with the for­ma­tion of a re­gional task force to iden­tify is­sues that de­serve

at­ten­tion. After a se­ries of pan­els and pub­lic meet­ings, that list was pared last fall to three ar­eas of con­cen­tra­tion: con­nected mo­bil­ity, glob­ally com­pet­i­tive econ­omy and re­silient com­mu­ni­ties.

Now, the com­mis­sion is con­duct­ing a sur­vey on its web­site through Feb. 1 for area res­i­dents to rank their top five pri­or­i­ties out of eight op­tions. For ex­am­ple, un­der re­silient com­mu­ni­ties, the op­tions are: in­vest­ing in strate­gies to deal with cli­mate change; push­ing projects to im­prove air qual­ity; rein­vest­ing in older com­mu­ni­ties; teach­ing mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers the best prac­tices for eco­nomic growth and im­prove­ments in trans­porta­tion; con­serv­ing nat­u­ral re­sources and pro­vid­ing recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties; us­ing in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy to build sus­tain­able in­fra­struc­ture; and pro­tect­ing com­mu­ni­ties from nat­u­ral dis­as­ters such as floods and land­slides.

Ms. Stark said early re­sults show res­i­dents fa­vor us­ing tech­nol­ogy, pro­tect­ing their com­mu­ni­ties and hav­ing bet­ter con­nec­tions among pub­lic tran­sit sys­tems in the re­gion. Flood­ing and runoff con­cerns, in par­tic­u­lar, are more prom­i­nent than they were when the most re­cent up­date was done four years ago, she said.

“That’s some­thing we heard four years ago, but it’s a lot more now,” she said. “[Wa­ter dam­age] is be­com­ing some­thing more peo­ple are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing now. Peo­ple are pay­ing more at­ten­tion to that.”

In trans­porta­tion, Ms. Stark said, projects in the plan’s first four years al­ready have been funded and in­cluded in the re­gion’s Trans­porta­tion Im­prove­ment Plan. The plan also will in­clude fu­ture projects, some that are in the pipe­line for fund­ing later and oth­ers on the re­gion’s “wish list.”

The com­mis­sion over­sees long-range plan­ning for Al­legheny, Arm­strong, Beaver, But­ler, Fayette, Greene, In­di­ana, Lawrence, Wash­ing­ton and West­more­land coun­ties as well as the City of Pitts­burgh.

Lake Fong/Post-Gazette

An Uber ve­hi­cle makes a splash while driv­ing on Small­man Street in the Strip Dis­trict. Flood­ing and the use of more tech­nol­ogy in trans­porta­tion are among the con­cerns the South­west­ern Penn­syl­va­nia Com­mis­sion is ex­plor­ing as it works to­ward a new re­gional plan.

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