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Pittsburgh Mayor Lobbies for His 'Smart' Street Grid Vision

Mayor Bill Peduto is hoping to reduce gridlock, pollution and idling traffic through “smart” traffic lights, allowing vehicles to talk with each other, and charting the best way for travelers to navigate confusing city streets by bus, bicycle and on foot.

by Bob Bauder, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review / March 16, 2016
Pittsburgh Mayor, Bill Peduto E.REPUBLIC/DAVID KIDD

(TNS) -- Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto on Tuesday described a futuristic city with driverless cars, traffic light systems that eliminate gridlock and vehicle applications that warn of potential collisions.

The mayor laid out his plans for spending a $50 million federal transportation grant — should the city receive it — on a day when traffic stalled en route to Carnegie Mellon University, where he was speaking. A burst water main closed Forbes Avenue, the main route leading to the CMU campus.

“You'll still have water pipes break, but you'll probably have something to let you know about it,” Peduto said with a laugh.

Pittsburgh is one of seven finalists for a U.S. Department of Transportation “Smart City Challenge” grant that it would use to develop better transportation systems and cars that can operate via high-tech networks. Allegheny County, Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh and others assisted the city with its grant application.

Peduto said he expects to double the $50 million through corporate donations. The transportation department awarded Pittsburgh $100,000 to prepare its final application, due in April.

The $50 million would pay for infrastructure including sensors and wireless and fiber optic networks linking the entire city.

Those networks would reduce gridlock, pollution and idling traffic through “smart” traffic lights, allow vehicles to talk with each other and chart the best way for travelers to navigate confusing city streets by bus, bicycle and on foot.

Fifty intersections in the East End already are equipped with sensors that communicate with vehicles and allow traffic lights to adjust their stop-and-go times based on traffic. A program of Traffic21, a CMU research institute, the newest sensors are in 24 intersections along Baum Boulevard and Centre Avenue.

“The city is proposing to use this grant to further build out the infrastructure in Pittsburgh,” Caldwell said. “This is laying the groundwork for … who knows what in the future. It's allowing for a system that's allowing for all of this future technology to be applied.”

Peduto said the money would provide such things as solar-powered charging stations for electric cars on the roofs of Downtown garages and autonomous vehicles shuttling people from Oakland to Hazelwood where plans are afoot for major residential and high-tech development.

The city would create an information “platform” for others to learn of Pittsburgh's transportation developments. Peduto said he wants to create after-school programs in recreation centers to offer science and high-tech programming to city youths.

“... The cities that start to advance the ability to change transportation will be the ones that will be in the lead not only in creating more effective and efficient and equitable routes of transportation and modes of trans, but they will be the ones that will lead in the industry and help to change their economy,” Peduto said.

Pittsburgh is competing against Austin, Texas, Columbus, Ohio, Kansas City, Mo., Denver and San Francisco. The mayor vowed to move ahead with transportation planning even if the city does not receive the grant.

“This will take us there much faster, but we're still going there,” he said.

©2016 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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