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Mon Incline closures prompt PRT to bring in steering committee to increase transparency

Mon Incline closures prompt PRT to bring in committee
Mon Incline closures prompt PRT to bring in committee 02:20

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Pittsburgh Regional Transit is looking to increase transparency to the public, businesses and elected officials about the operations of the Monongahela Incline following another closure.

PRT will appoint what it is calling a steering committee in an attempt to put fresh eyes on its operations, CEO Katharine Kelleman said at an afternoon news conference on Tuesday. The committee will include PRT officials, local authorities and community stakeholders. 

The Mon Incline is the "oldest, continuously operating funicular in the U.S." It has been operating since 1870.

Last Friday, PRT was forced to close it for the third time just this year due to electrical issues.

"As we make changes or make patches to the incline, it's a lot like doing a hip replacement but not having another hip someone can practice on," Kelleman said.

The steering committee, Kelleman said, will help with quality control.

"When we did the North Shore Connector back in the '00s, we brought in some outside help to look at the contracts, to look at the processes and procedures that we put in place," Kelleman said. "We currently have our contractors at work. We have brought in some outside firms to look at the data we're getting back on various components of the incline, what are we seeing for running time. But it's time for us to bring in a third party – quality assurance and quality control – to not just talk to PRT but talk to the taxpayers who fund the incline, talk to the businesses and the folks up on Mt. Washington, and talk to our elected (officials) to present an outside perspective of what it going on."

The incline, which has had a series of problems in the last year, also recently closed after a brake resistor and motor controller failed while docked at the station. 

This is, currently, the fourth time the 154-year-old incline has been out of service since contractors completed a $8.1 million project to upgrade the incline. Pittsburghers are feeling the impacts.

"It is definitely a lifeline, not just a hallmark for Pittsburgh, but it is a lifeline and really strong connection between Mt. Washington and the Station Square area and the Golden Triangle," Kelleman said.

As part of the steering committee, Kelleman also said it may be time to start looking at more modern options to connect Mt. Washington with the city. She said the incline isn't going anywhere, but other options like gondolas and trams, also exist.

"We will absolutely have an incline," she said. "As part and parcel of our big capital conversation, it probably is time to start saying, 'What solutions are out there for a more modern way to connect the two areas?' If the incline sits here as a museum next to something that's pretty and shiny and new, that should be on the table, but we absolutely need to have the conversation because Mt. Washington, Pittsburgh, we all deserve an incline that's running."

While PRT says there is no concrete date for the incline to reopen, it believes it could be a few days to a few weeks. 

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