Regional Annual Report

States collaborate to grow region’s petrochemical industry

The governors of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia signaled their interest in expanding the petrochemical industry’s footprint in the tri-state region last year to take advantage of abundant natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations underneath it. After competing against one another to lure the industry to their states for years, Pennsylvania Governor …

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Region Begins to imagine the transit network of the future

Civic leaders across southwestern Pennsylvania want people to start thinking big about the future of transportation in the region. Imagine commuter rail extending to the airport, expanded bus rapid transit, connected bike lanes throughout the area, smart traffic signals—that kind of big. A new leadership coalition, the Regional Transportation Alliance of Southwestern Pennsylvania (RTA), emerged …

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Region’s housing market remains the picture of stability

The regional housing market stayed in character in 2015, with home prices appreciating but at a slower rate than in most other Pittsburgh Today benchmark regions. Homeownership is high across the Pittsburgh MSA. U.S. Census Bureau data show that 69.3 percent of homes in the seven-county MSA are occupied by their owners. Only Minneapolis among …

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Local initiative gains acclaim, plans May celebration

In the Monongahela River Valley, where now-silent steel mills once defined the region, a traditional classroom has been stripped of its chalkboards and remade as an entertainment technology academy. Game design theory now helps engage students in English, computer science and math lessons. In childcare centers, children share their day in pictures and voice compositions …

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City police attempt to mend relations in African American neighborhoods

Some of the photos posted on the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Facebook pages include: A smiling child wearing a policeman’s cap and holding a police radio alongside a city cop, an officer and child eating ice cream bars, and smiling police officers riding bikes with smiling kids. The image of citizen-friendly policing is one that …

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Air and water pollution still challenge region

Environmental stewardship is not a traditional strength of southwestern Pennsylvania, where the legacy of industrialization and growth includes periods of dense air pollution, and streams and rivers tainted with abandoned mine acid and effluent from inadequate municipal sewage systems. Gone are the days when soot from mills and home furnaces turned afternoon into night and …

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Pittsburgh Sees Future Unfolding Around Principles of Sustainability

High above the Monongahela River in Hazelwood sits Pittsburgh’s last great brownfield. Only the ghostly shell of Mill 19 stands as evidence of the steel and coke works that for a century had given the neighborhood bustle, prosperity and some of the unhealthiest air in the region. The rest of the 178 acres lies barren, …

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Risky Health Behaviors Run High Across the Region

When it comes to avoiding preventable diseases, southwestern Pennsylvanians are their own worst enemy. Rates of smoking, being overweight and physical inactivity across the seven counties that make up the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area are among the worst in the Pittsburgh Today benchmark regions and the nation. Such behaviors have been strongly linked to preventable …

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Thinking Regionally About Energy

Southwestern Pennsylvania has long been an energy center. The nation’s oil industry rose from the derricks of Titusville. Ample coal seams have been mined for centuries. Natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation is helping to achieve energy independence. Yet, until now, there’s been little effort to draft a regional strategy covering production, consumption, health …

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High Rates of Chronic Disease, Unhealthy Behaviors Persist

Southwestern Pennsylvanians find themselves in the middle of the pack when self-reported health status is measured across the 15 Pittsburgh Today benchmark regions. More than 83 percent of residents in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) describe their health as good or better, and 16.6 percent rate it fair or poor, according to U.S. Centers …

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Lack of Diversity in the Region’s Workforce Raises Concerns

Rayfield Lucas had heard there were well-paying jobs to be had in the shale gas industry; jobs that offered the opportunity to earn his way to a future more secure than the maintenance and warehouse work he’d done in the past could ever promise. He went for it. A little more than a month after …

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The Arts Emerge as a Driver of Revitalization

The weight of support the arts enjoy in Pittsburgh was on public display last fall when local foundations bought the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, rescuing it from debt, troubled management and a suitor with designs for turning it into a Downtown hotel. Four foundations raised $5.8 million of the $7.9 million price …

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Spotlight Shines On Pittsburgh’s Bumpy Ride to Teacher Evaluation Reform

It’s a Saturday night in early November. A jazz band plays near a rocket simulator in the Carnegie Science Center where a line snakes toward the bar. People in cocktail attire chat over hors d’oeuvres. It’s not often that city public school teachers are at the center of a gala celebrating their work. But these …

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College Graduates Increase But Region Still Lags

Earning a high school education is the building block of success. Southwestern Pennsylvanians shine in that regard. Where they come up short is in building on that foundation. And the consequences of not earning a college degree can be significant, local survey data show. Only 7.5 percent of residents aged 25 or older don’t have …

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Badly Needed Reinvestment Expected Soon

The long-awaited reinvestment in transportation statewide can’t come too soon in southwestern Pennsylvania, where neglected roads and bridges leave no doubt there is plenty of work to be done with the region’s share of the $2.3 billion in state transportation funding approved more than a year ago. The Federal Highway Administration reports that 24.4 percent …

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Low Crime Rates Are a Trademark of the Region

Crime varies by neighborhood, but southwestern Pennsylvania’s overall crime rate is the envy of Pittsburgh Today benchmark regions. And only Boston has a lower crime rate than the City of Pittsburgh in the ranking of benchmark cities. Crime rates in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area fell across every major category except rape and motor …

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Land Banks Emerge with Hopes of Turning Back the Tide of Vacant Properties

They were aware of the problem. How could they not be? The ghostly abandoned houses and weedchoked vacant lots in their municipalities numbered in the thousands. Vacancy, tax delinquency and blight had emerged as widely recognized cancers exclusive to no neighborhood. The crisis even resonated in Harrisburg, where lawmakers were drafting legislation to help fight …

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Slow, Steady Growth is in Line with Tradition

The region’s housing market is anything but dramatic. It has long been the tortoise in the race: Slow, but reliably steady. Little has changed in a year’s time. Third-quarter 2014 housing prices, for example, rose 4.3 percent over the previous year, a rate slower than seven of the 14 Pittsburgh Today benchmark regions and below …

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In a Fragmented Region, Big Problems Encourage Cooperation

Few regions have as many disparate local governments as southwestern Pennsylvania. While that is not likely to change soon, recent approaches to several chronic problems suggest an era of cooperation is rising among cities, boroughs and townships that lack the means to solve them on their own. In Allegheny County, nudging some 83 municipalities to …

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As Demand Rises, Food Banks Face the Challenge of Change

No one waiting at North Hills Community Outreach’s food pantry in Hampton wore dirty or tattered clothing. The children playing in the parking lot while their parents lined up for a few bags of groceries attended stable suburban schools. Several of the adults visiting the food pantry that October evening had at least a part-time …

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Allegheny County Health Department Takes a New Approach to Solve Old Problems

Dr. Karen Hacker arrived at the town hall meeting in Turtle Creek to find it crowded with TV news crews. The director of the Allegheny County Health Department had come that October evening to discuss the state of chronic disease in the community, which includes high rates of obesity and heart disease. Reporters came for …

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When Better Is Not Good Enough

Last spring, the shenango, inc. coke plant on Neville Island was fined $600,000 for 330 air pollution violations and ordered to fix the problems that led to them. It was a familiar pattern in southwestern Pennsylvania in which pollution violations are detected, fines negotiated and fixes ordered—a process that has helped reduce pollution over decades, …

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