What is the fascination of our planners, consultants, and politicians with constructing “corridors”? Why are they so enamored with the word and the deed?
Sometimes, they make sense, as when studies project a fast train corridor from Pittsburgh to the Northeast Amtrak Acela corridor and/or points west. Certainly making it possible to visit East Coast or Midwestern cities in the morning and returning quickly and efficiently in the evening or the next morning could offer large economic and life-style benefits. Of course this “corridor” never goes beyond the “imagine…” stage.
Similarly, a designated express corridor to the airport would seem useful, even with our overly costly, foolishly ambitious, and vastly underutilized airport. The savings in Parkway congestion, time, and inconvenience might well warrant the investment. But, again, only talk animates this discussion.
Then there is corridor-folly. In a city squeezed between two rivers with uncountable natural barriers—hills, bluffs, bridges—and density, the idea of single use, designated pathways should generate skeptical head-scratching.
So when Pittsburgh’s planning gurus broached the idea for an Oakland/ Downtown corridor to replace bus rides that normally take 11 minutes even during rush hour, head scratching began in earnest. What’s the point? Why spend the money? What’s the value?
Despite staging elaborate dog-and-pony shows filled with consultant boiler plate phrases like “strengthening linkages”, “improved access”, “enhanced environmental quality”, and “operational efficiency”, none of our transportation experts or their political sponsors could explain how spending an estimated $200 million on a scheme to shave a few minutes off of a bus ride made sense. Only someone who could love a plan to spend half of a billion dollars to build an unnecessary tunnel under the Allegheny River could embrace this boondoggle.
As boondoggles go, $7.3 million of public funds doesn’t seem like a lot—barely enough to get Donald Trump started in business or provide Hillary and Bill Clinton a fresh start after they left the White House “dead broke”.
But that’s the amount that our Grandees propose to allocate for another corridor linking CMU and the former brown site (stain?) left in Hazelwood after LTV closed shop and dumped on its workers and neighbors. Dubbed “Almono” (no doubt a name created on a cocktail napkin in a hip Lawrenceville bar), the ambitious development in Hazelwood is another build-it-and-they-will-come project based on faith and prayers. The development gurus pray that tech companies are leaning towards leaving the Bay area and relocating in Pittsburgh. All they need, they argue, is a carrot.
To sauté the carrot, the URA is seeking funds to construct a designated, unique corridor that will cut through Panther Hollow and stretch between the tech Mecca of CMU (Pitt’s name is in the mix, though Pitt administrators seem unaware) and the proposed technology center.
“Unlock” the site?
URA head and Peduto chief-of-staff, Kevin Acklin, reasons as follows: “We think it’s a priority project for the city based on the present lack of a connection from Oakland to the Almono site,” he said. “One of the challenges is to unlock that site from a transportation perspective and connect it to the rest of the community.”
“Unlock the site”? “…lack of connection”?
Apparently, Acklin failed to check with Google Maps. It claims that Hazelwood can be readily accessed from CMU in 9 minutes via Irvine Street. Does the proposed connector employ warp speed? Are the techies at CMU holding back on a new technology?
Apparently cars, buses, and cabs are beneath the tech super stars that our politicians hope to lure to the city (There is an existing bicycle lane through the Hollow). Nor do they desire to rub shoulders with the unwashed—those of us digitally non-existent. They want their private lines just as they have insisted on them in San Francisco.
As is typical with our Meds/Eds behemoths and their compliant city bureaucrats, the desires of the Panther Hollow residents do not figure in their calculations. Like most of Oakland, Panther Hollow has had a contentious history with both the University of Pittsburgh and the city. The city has neglected infrastructure, passively allowed refuge dumping, and blatantly expropriated land. A Panther Hollow suit against the city challenged the brazen “taking” of property in the late 1980’s.
Once again activists are standing up to arrogance and power, insisting that their interests be weighed against the building of a Rube Goldberg tech toy conveyance through their neighborhood. It’s a bad idea made worse by the solicitation of public funds.