Commuter Rail in Pittsburgh

  The Allegheny Valley Commuter Rail, a proposed commuter line serving the Pittsburgh region, faces another hurdle today. Allegheny Valley Railroad, a freight company which has made their rail corridor available for development into a commuter service, and Buncher Co., a real estate developer, will go before the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in Washington D.C. At stake is whether AVR owns an easement on property that Buncher holds. The easement is located in the Strip District neighborhood east of downtown and would be necessary for bringing trains into downtown stations.

  AVR claims to hold a deed from 1995, conveying the easement to them, while Buncher denies that any easement exists.

  According to Russell Peterson, CEO of AVR, if the STB rules in favor of Buncher, then the rail service will stop short of downtown, at 21st Street. This would put the success and feasibility of the commuter service in jeopardy. If the board rules in favor of AVR, Peterson believes Buncher will likely appeal to a higher court, entering a process that could take years.

  Peterson does not, however, think this decision is a make-or-break situation for commuter rail. “It might limit our options,” he says, “but it does not close the door.”

  “Even if Buncher prevails in appeals,” Peterson says, “It doesn’t mean there are not other ways to resolve the issue.”

  If AVR does eventually prevail in the hearing, the commuter service would still be many years away from breaking ground. According to Peterson, U.S. Representative Jason Altmire (a strong supporter of the service) has environmental impact study funding already in place. A study would be the next step in the process.

  Peterson says AVR would likely sell their tracks to a publicprivate entity which would then develop the corridor and commuter stations. Peterson believes there would be at least half a billion dollars worth of development. 

–Andrew Moore



Filed under Public Transportation, Real Estate

5 responses to “Commuter Rail in Pittsburgh

  1. eli_whitney

    hey andrew,

    anywhere i can read more about this? thanks!

  2. Andrew


    I’ve got something in the works. I’ll be sure to e-mail you.

  3. David Frank


    Thanks for keeping an eye on this. I never understood why any form of commuter rail didn’t connect with the Norfolk Southern (NS) line for a short hop and go right into Penn Station in downtown Pittsburgh, rather then through the Strip District ground route. Is NS just too difficult to negotiate with? Like Eli said, I would love to hear more about what is going on with issues like this in Pittsburgh.



  4. Len

    Is there any new information on this? Has there been a ruling? If there has not yet been a ruling is there an estimated time when one might be expected.

    This subject has been knocked around for over 20 years.

  5. Andrew

    So there has been a ruling, but it’s still a complicated issue. I have a piece in the Pittsburgh City Paper this week which looks at the issues:

    Thanks for your interest.

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