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In the mid-1990s, Pittsburgh-region leaders created a plan to develop Pittsburgh’s north side, an area that had few attractions or businesses. To help support the development, leaders proposed extending the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s light-rail service 1.2 miles to the North Shore.
The short extension wasn’t a simple one. The North Shore neighborhood is located across the Allegheny River from downtown, meaning the authority needed to construct twin 2,400-foot tunnels, about 800 feet of which run under the river.
“From an engineering standpoint, it was very interesting,” says Port Authority Communications Officer Jim Ritchie. “We’ve never had a project like this, where we’ve taken a tunnel of that magnitude, built it underneath a river and run a transit line through it.”
But port authority and Pittsburgh business leaders believe the complicated, $517 million project will be well worth the trouble. The North Shore is now home to Heinz Field, PNC Park, the Del Monte and StarKist headquarters, Carnegie Science Center, Andy Warhol Museum, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and the National Aviary.
“In the last 10 years or so, we’ve really seen the North Shore of Pittsburgh become one of the hot spots in the region,” says Ritchie. “It’s become a bustling place and there’s a real need for a transit connection.”
After four years of construction, that transit connection opened on March 25.
That service is free to those who use it; the port authority has signed a three-year agreement with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Rivers Casino, Pittsburgh Stadium Authority and ALCO Parking to extend the agency’s free fare zone to the North Shore.
Now that the cross-river connection has been made, the port authority will be able to more easily expand light-rail service to other northern communities.
To hear Ritchie discuss the North Shore Connector’s operations to date, as well as how the new link might affect travel patterns in the region, click on the playlist below.