Last Friday, commuters heading home along East Warrington Avenue in Allentown started their Labor Day weekend witnessing a rally imploring the city to return light rail transit service, known as the T, to this neighborhood located south of Downtown.
The rally represents a new push by some Allentown residents and business leaders to reconnect their neighborhood with the city’s larger light rail system.
Organizers point to the raft of new businesses along East Warrington that could benefit from increased foot traffic and visibility. Reconnecting to the T, they say, would improve the economy of chronically underserved Allentown.
But not everyone is convinced. Some citizens are wary of both the inconvenience and the potential expense of rail service, and have been actively lobbying the Port Authority of Allegheny County against it.
Greg Lomasney has owned a home on Warrington Avenue for the last two years. He has emerged as one of the de facto spokespeople for the community opposition, a group that has also been in regular contact with the Port Authority. “We’re talking and getting organized because it’s such a waste of capital and funds,” Lomasney says, “and it doesn’t add anything new.”
Lomasney points out that the neighborhood is already served by four bus lines. Meanwhile, other critical infrastructure needs such as improving crumbling retaining walls and sidewalks remain unaddressed.
“We’re in a landslide zone,” he says.
Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh, Port Authority Spokesperson Jim Ritchie said that while his organization has been in contact with both sides over the last several weeks, no final decisions will be made until the organization is ready to write its annual budget in the spring of 2019.
If extra money exists in the budget, the Port Authority will rely on data from their “service request project,” which allows citizens to suggest changes they would like to see in their local transportation system.
“There’s a very open, transparent, public process that relates to improving bus and rail service each year,” he says. “That’s where decisions like this are typically made.” Port Authority representatives will also be meeting in person with community development groups in favor of the plan before the end of the September.
“The Brown Line,” as the section of the T was known, connected the suburbs of the South Hills with the city via rails going up and over Mt. Washington until 2011, when budget cuts forced its closure. The line has been called into action as a detour several times in the past year.