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Trolleys through Allentown? Good for business; bad for noise, rattling plates |

Trolleys through Allentown? Good for business; bad for noise, rattling plates

A train heads down Warrington Avenue on an alternate route through Arlington, Thursday, August 23, 2018. Port Authority has been running through the neighborhood since Aug. 5 to bypass tracks and equipment damaged by a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed near Station Square.

Businesses in Pittsburgh’s Allentown section are urging the Port Authority of Allegheny County to restore full-time light rail service through their neighborhood.

But not everybody is on board with that.

Opponents say the large trains keep them awake at night, rattle their dishes, clog up traffic and pose a landslide danger.

Supporters downplayed the noise and vibration and said several daily stops along Arlington and Warrington Avenues would benefit residents and businesses. They’ve organized a rally for 3:30 p.m. Friday at 831 E. Warrington to gather support for renewed T service.

“Hundreds of people going by every day just increases the visibility,” said Dan Rugh, owner of Commonwealth Press on Warrington. “You can’t buy that kind of advertising.”

Nancy Lomasney lives on the light rail route along Arlington Avenue.

“It’s not uncommon for our dishes and glassware to shake every time time they pass,” Lomasney said. “We hear them as late as 2 a.m. and as early as 4:15 in the morning. You cannot have a conversation outside. You cannot sit on your deck or porch. It’s difficult driving anywhere because you’re frequently blocked by trolleys.”

She also fears vibrations caused by the heavy trains could cause homes, including hers, along steep Arlington Avenue to slide.

The Port Authority has been running trains on the closed Allentown line since Aug. 5 to bypass tracks and equipment damaged by a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed near Station Square. The agency has restored outbound rail service and expects to have the inbound line running over the weekend.

Trains will stop running through Allentown when full T service is restored.

Port Authority spokesman Adam Brandolph said the agency cut service to Allentown in 2011 during a financial crunch when it cost about $1 million to operate the line for about 185 daily riders. The agency has also received requests from Allentown in subsequent years to reopen the line and heard from people who oppose it.

Brandolph said the Port Authority estimated in 2016 that it would cost about $1.3 million annually to reopen the Allentown route for about 170 daily riders. He said four bus lines now service the neighborhood.

“We have a lot of communities that have been asking either for new service or service that had been eliminated in the 2010-2011 time frame,” he said. “Annually we evaluate our entire system, and that includes getting suggestions from members of the community.”

Ben Prisbylla, manager of operations and director of acquisitions for RE360 Real Estate Development in Allentown, said the neighborhood has changed with an influx of new businesses and visitors. Light rail service would add to that and give residents easy access to Downtown and retail centers such as the South Hills Village mall.

“Allentown is a completely different neighborhood now, even from three years ago,” he said. “Now, I think there’s a pretty huge ridership up here that would love it.”

Brandolph would not speculate on the likelihood of restoring service through Allentown, but said the Port Authority would consider it.

“We recognize that the neighborhood has changed pretty dramatically over the last seven or eight years,” he said, adding that it would help if the neighborhood conducted a study showing the impact of light rail versus the bus routes. “I would anticipate that if we brought light rail back to Allentown that it would come with some sort of reduction in buses.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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