The Port Authority board voted unanimously this morning to amend its $183.5 million capital budget to move $1.56 million toward a study of Bus Rapid Transit — a project that would create special bus service between Downtown and Oakland.
The $4 million study is a necessary step to qualify for federal funding because the Federal Transit Administration requires an environmental analysis of the project as well as engineering plans, including "vetting" alternative routes (converting a lane of Forbes Avenue or additional lane on Fifth Avenue to be bus-only, for instance). The transit agency hopes to apply for federal funds by August 2016, board chairman Robert Hurley says.
"This will bring us to nearly three quarters of the funding for this project," says Hurley, referring to the BRT study. The county is kicking in $1 million — and there is $440,000 remaining on an existing $1.5 million BRT contract with Parsons Brinckerhoff — a study that "was stalled as a new administration came in." Hurley said he anticipates going back to the county for the remaining $1 million.
The project will require coordination between the Port Authority, city and county governments — and while mayor Bill Peduto has signaled his support for BRT in the past, he has not been as vocal an advocate as county executive Rich Fitzgerald, who has estimated the total cost of BRT in the neighborhood of $200 million.
"There will be a point in time where what we're going will have to be done in conjunction with the city," Hurley says, adding that meetings with the Peduto administration have been productive and "they're full-fledged behind this."
The resolution approved this morning moves $1.56 million that was previously approved for "North Braddock Avenue Bridge Painting and Repairs" — though Hurley says the move will leave $3.34 million for the bridge project and won't affect other capital projects: "We're not robbing Peter to pay Paul."