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Amtrak to suspend Pittsburgh service during economic summit

(The following story by Jill King Greenwood and Matthew Santoni appeared on the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review website on August 14, 2009.)

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — The prospect of traveling into and out of Downtown during the Group of 20 economic summit in September is becoming increasingly bleak.

Amtrak has suspended all train service for Pittsburgh beginning Sept. 24 until the evening of Sept. 26, spokeswoman Tracy Connell said Wednesday.

"If you try to book a train to or from Pittsburgh, it will show up as unavailable on our Web site," Connell said.

Passengers coming through the city will be able to disembark to get on a connecting train but "will not be allowed to leave the platform," Connell said. "Security personnel will be there to make sure no one leaves that building, because it's in a secure perimeter for the G-20."

The station is located on Liberty Avenue, blocks from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, where the summit will take place.

Greyhound Lines Inc. officials are discussing how bus service into and out of Pittsburgh will be affected, but no decision has been made, said spokesman Timothy Stokes.

The heads of state from 19 nations and the European Union will bring delegations with hundreds of aides; thousands of media and protesters are expected.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County isn't certain what restrictions it will implement but is preparing for the worst, said spokesman Jim Ritchie.

Throughout near-daily meetings with officials and committees from the city, county, state and federal government, the message has been that street closings and restrictions affecting Port Authority's buses and Downtown subways will be announced closer to the start of the G-20, and maybe the day any changes are made, Ritchie said.

"We're telling riders and employers, 'This is what we know right now — it's not a lot, but here's what it is,' " Ritchie said.

Given the size of the summit and the scope of the security surrounding it, street closures and detours could be announced for the entire week leading up to the conference, he said.

To brace riders for the possibility of last-minute changes, the transit agency set up a Web site, portauthority.org/g20, where it plans to post announcements affecting routes, along with a map detailing any changes.

The agency will use its new Twitter account, twitter.com/PGHtransit, to relay up-to-the-minute detours, and is establishing contact with the city's major employers so they communicate changes that could affect their workers.

Some discussions have centered on whether Port Authority can provide any service at all within the Golden Triangle, or whether all buses and light rail service would have to stop on the far side of the Allegheny or Monongahela rivers.

Such restrictions would create further complications, because many buses loop around on Downtown streets at the end of their routes, and the T changes from inbound to outbound tracks using loops and switches Downtown.

Friday, August 14, 2009

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