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PUC initiates safety investigation of 9th Street rail crossing in South Side


The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has ordered an investigation into all safety-related issues involving a crossing in the City of Pittsburgh where 9th Street crosses two mainline tracks of CSX Transportation Inc.

The Commission voted 5-0 to conduct the investigation.

“This crossing along the South Side of the Monongahela River is adjacent to the popular Three Rivers Heritage Trail and carries a mix of cars, bicycles and pedestrians over a busy rail corridor traversed by 40 to 60 trains per day,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “The investigation by the PUC’s Rail Safety Engineering Section will evaluate whether the existing conditions at the crossing are adequate to prevent accidents and promote the safety of the public.”

The commission recently approved an application by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to install new automatic gates and flashing-light signals at another nearby crossing, where 4th St. crosses the same CSX tracks – scheduled to be completed on or before Dec. 31, 2016. Stop signs have also been ordered to be added to that crossing, as a temporary safety enhancement, until construction of the lights and gates is completed.

“Other improvements in the area serve to underscore safety concerns about the 9th Street crossing, which is currently only marked by ‘railroad crossing’ signs and flashing lights,” Chairman Brown noted. “Limited sight lines, along with a nearby curve and bridge, can make it even more challenging for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians to spot approaching trains – including trains carrying Bakken crude oil – traveling at up to 40 miles per hour.”

Per the Order approved by the commission, the PUC’s safety investigation will include numerous agencies, utilities and organizations with a potential interest in the crossing. Along with the examination of existing conditions at the crossing, the PUC’s review also will address the future disposition of the crossing and the cost allocation of any work that may be ordered.

Under Pennsylvania statute, the PUC has exclusive jurisdiction over the alteration, construction, relocation, suspension and abolition of public highway-railroad crossings. The commission’s Rail Safety Engineers oversee highway-railroad crossings throughout Pennsylvania – including approximately 5,600 at-grade crossings, where public roads cross railroad tracks; along with 3,200 bridge crossings, involving bridges carrying public roads over railroads; bridges carrying railroads over public roads; and bridges carrying railroads over other railroads.


Since 1977, Allegheny County has been authorized to collect a Hotel Room Rental Tax (“Tax”) on any transaction where a property owner or “Operator” rents temporary accommodations to visitors for a fee.

The definition of hotel is broad and has always included the rental of any “Operator: owned property or properties for periods less than 30 days.

Due to the national trend toward home sharing – where tourists and visitors rent properties – Allegheny County recently amended the County Hotel Room Rental Tax Ordinance to permit online Booking Agents, such as Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO, to collect, remit and report the tax directly to the Allegheny County Treasurer on behalf of operators who list their properties on such sites.

“The new ordinance does not impose a new tax, increase the tax rate or place any additional burdens on operators,” stated Allegheny County Treasurer John Weinstein. “Permitting booking agents to collect and remit taxes will make it easier for operators to comply with the law.”

Operators not using booking agents are required to collect, remit and report the tax. Operators using booking agents are urged to inquire whether their agent will be collecting the tax for them.

The new county ordinance requires booking agents to report all room rentals to the County Treasurer, regardless of whether the agent is collecting the tax. The county will know each operator’s name, address and the rental transaction amount, so that the tax can be enforced against the operator if the tax is not timely paid. Taxes not timely paid are subject to penalties and interest and the costs, fees and expenses of enforcement, if necessary.

Operators listing their properties for rent are also required to submit an “Application for Registration to Collect Hotel Room Rental Tax” to the Treasurer’s Office. The Application and more information about the Tax can be found online at:


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