Penn Pike chief says planning to issue concession RFPs for els in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia (ADDITIONS)

February 28, 2008

Penn Pike chief Joe Brimmeier is saying the Turnpike Commission is planning to issue Requests for Proposals shortly for toll concessions to build elevated toll express lanes on:

- (1) the Parkway East (I-376) east of Pittsburgh

- (2) the Schuykill Expressway (I-76) northwest of Philadelphia (pronounced 'skookull' with appropriate Dutch/Philly gutterals. REVISED)

Both are old mainly 2+2 lane commuter expressways heavily congested in peak hours.

Both are radials heading downtown in tight right of way where conventional widening is engineeringly and politically difficult.

Both are spurs from the Turnpike East-West Mainline.

They would serve the two major metro areas of the state.

Figg salesmanship

Both proposals arise from Figg Engineering of Tallahassee FL's close relationship with the Turnpike Commission following successful construction of the beautiful new 3+3 lane Susquehanna River Bridge in Harrisburg within sight of the head offices of the Turnpike Commission and their demonstration of the clean-lined concrete box girder mode of construction on the elevated reversible express lanes on the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway of the Tampa Hillsboro Expressway Authority.


Parkway East El

Brimmeier has previously advocated reversible toll express lanes to relieve congestion on Pittsburgh Parkway East.

Its western portion would depart the Parkway alignment and comes into downtown Pittsburgh from the north alongside a busway built on an abandoned railroad structure.

That way it would avoid having to widen the bottleneck Squirrel Hill Tunnels and the dense residential, university and medical areas on either side of the Parkway East in its last several miles west into the downtown.

Schuykill El

The Schuykill Expressway project is about 30km (19 miles) long from the Turnpike in King of Prussia in to the westside of downtown Philadelphia. A Schuykill Elevated would be a surefire attractor of traffic since it would tap four expressways:

- Pottstown Expressway US422

- the Turnpike West I-76

- US202

- Northeast Extension I-476

The project is quite new. Nothing is on the books from previous plans.

Elaborate interchange ramping would be needed at:

- King of Prussia to make connections with the Turnpike, US422 and US202

- I-476

- US1

- downtown streets and new bridging over the Schuykill River downtown

The elevated would be built for the most part atop the existing Expressway located on the hillside of the west bank of the river.

It could face strong opposition from residents of the Schuykill River Valley especially on the east bank where there are residential areas all the way down to the downtown.

Gaining environmental permits and political support would be a major challenge.

The Parkway East project is less challenging in its engineering and politics, but no pushover. It is shorter - 22km (13.5 miles). The Parkway East El requires fewer elaborate interchange ramps and fits more easily into the cityscape than the Schuykill El. But it too is a new idea and would face challenges in gaining permits and support.

It is also in competition to a considerable extent with a more mature project - the final stage of the Mon-Fayette Expressway/51-376 to the south of the Parkway East. And even without the MFE/51-376 it wouldn't attract the traffic of the Schuykill El.

The Pittsburgh area is 2.4m population and stagnant versus the Philadelphia metro area's 6.2m and growing slowly.

But will they be around?

A further issue is who would do PPP business with the present Turnpike Commission, associates of which face a major federal corruption trial, and which is involved in a brutal fight with both the Governor of the state and a growing segment of the legislature that want it exterminated.

ADDITION (02-28): The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this morning (2008-02-28) takes the discussion further. They report ranking Republican on the House transportation committee Rick Geist as supporting elevated lanes on Pittsburgh's Parkway East saying they "make a lot of sense" as a public private partnership or toll concession. He said elevated lanes would likely use time-of-day pricing, meaning a charge of, perhaps, $5 during the busy morning and afternoon rush hours, but lower during nonpeak hours. Drivers would "have the choice of paying to drive in a less-congested elevated lane or the usual bumper-to-bumper free lanes on the ground."

But Geist points out that the Parkway East is outside the jurisdiction of the Turnpike Commission. It would need the state legislature to transfer control of the Parkway East to the Turnpike before it could solicit proposals for a concession. Geist said he'd prefer to see the State Transportation Commission - a panel of gubernatorial and legislative appointees headed by the transportation secretary - handle concessions.

Another interesting comment came from Reps Kotik and Petrone (Dems) calling the Brimmeier proposal "far-fetched" and asking "where would the money come from."

These guys don't seem to have grasped the possibility that investors will put up money for roads in return for the right to collect tolls. It just hasn't sunk in to the political mind yet, so set on the notion of every road depending on their levying a tax and appropriating funds.

HISTORY: Pennsylvania pioneered private investment in tollroads as this historical marker (see nearby) for the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike on US30 in Cain Twp, Chester Co records:

"This was the nation's first major toll road, built by a private company incorporated in 1792 by the state legislature. Completed two years later and praised as the finest highway of its day, the stone and gravel turnpike stretched 62 miles. The 35th milestone out of Philadelphia was placed here. Early in the 20th century this road was acquired by the state. It became part of the transcontinental Lincoln Highway and US30."

The Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike Road Company, raised the initial capital for the project by selling stock in the project...

"The sixty-two-mile turnpike cost more than $450,000, a staggering sum for the time. To recoup its investment and generate revenues, the Company charged travelers tolls, paid at toll gates located every ten miles along the route. Soon, inns and taverns conveniently located along the route--as many as sixty at one point in time--offered comfortable lodging and food for weary travelers, and often charged more to board a horse for the night than a person. At the height of summer, more than 1,000 Conestoga wagons traveled the turnpike each day, carrying apples and bacon, beef and beer, biscuit and butter, cheese, cider, corn, flour, leather, lumber, pork, wheat, whiskey, and other products of the surrounding farms to the city. Herds of livestock walked the turnpike to market. The turnpike company charged a toll of "¼ dollar" for "every score of Cattle," and "1/8 dollar" for every score of hogs or sheep.

"After its completion (in 1794), the stone and gravel roadway became the main artery for commerce and communication between Philadelphia and Lancaster. Although originally designed to move agricultural goods east, the Turnpike also carried travelers heading to western Pennsylvania and beyond. Despite the enormous cost of construction, the turnpike turned a profit for its investors and inspired the formation of other companies to construct paved roads.

"By 1804, Pennsylvania had two new turnpikes and the Lancaster turnpike extended west all the way to Pittsburgh. Over the next three decades, the state chartered more than 200 turnpike companies, which built more than 3,000 miles of roads."


also for another history of the Philadelphia & Lancaster Turnpike see:

Stock certificate issued by Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike Turnpike Company is shown nearby.















More pictures of the Tampa El on which these Pennsy Els are modeled:


























 TOLLROADSnews 2008-02-27 ADDITIONS 2008-02-28 14:30

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