Sunday, August 25, 2013

The City of Jeannette, Pennsylvania

The city of Jeannette is one of several urban centers of Westmoreland County located along the main line of the Norfolk Southern (Pennsylvania Railroad) line east of Pittsburgh. It once housed much of the manufacturing centers of the glass industry surrounding the greater Pittsburgh region. Eventually, along with the steel industry, glass manufacturing relocated elsewhere leaving Jeannette economically distressed. After viewing the geographical layout of the city on Google Earth, I believe there could be another theory playing a role in the slow recovery of this former manufacturing hub; it is somewhat isolated. Its main road dead ends at both of its termini rather than continuing on as a through street providing access to other parts of the region. State Route 130 passes through the northern portion of the city, but it is nowhere near the business corridor. Below is a Google Earth image of the layout of the city.

The only main transportation line passing within a block of the business district is the Norfolk Southern line. Given its isolation regarding the street layout, I have my own theory of how to possibly revitalize this city. I consider myself to be a strong supporter of commuter/regional rail, and I believe this could be used to improve access and mobility of the city. It could provide a sense of connectivity with the rest of the county and the region as a whole.

I have been reading the comprehensive plan for Westmoreland County, and according to the 2004 document they are trying to pursue commuter rail options for county residents. One of the options is using the Norfolk Southern line between Pittsburgh and Greensburg. Also stated in the comprehensive plan is bus data, and the shuttle bus serving this very corridor is one of the most frequently used in the county. By adding regional rail, I think more people would be enticed to use public transportation along this corridor. Aside from Greensburg and Jeannette, I believe other possible station locations would include Irwin, Penn, Trafford, and various densely populated areas of neighboring Allegheny County.

Establishing regional rail would be only the beginning of the revitalization. Having rail access right in the economic heart of Jeannette could drive up property values, potentially enticing developers to consider investing in improved business use for the city. By establishing regional rail service accessing Jeannette and especially considering its complicated street grid, the city should

  • Encourage transit-oriented development to promote pedestrian activities
  • Improve the street layout to promote safety for pedestrian traffic
  • Improve and possibly redesign some of the streets to allow for any increased traffic due to the station.
  • Construct structured parking to accomodate autos associated with commuters using the train station
  • Establish zoning to encourage mixed use development around the rail line and station site