Port Authority of Allegheny County - Rail Maintenance Center Restoration



Submitted By: JT Thorpe and Son

Owner: Port Authority of Allegheny County

Lead Designer: Gannett Fleming Inc.

General Contractor: JT Thorpe and Son

Construction Manager: WSP USA

Subcontractors: Merit Electrical Group; WG Tomko

Built in the 1980s, the county’s light rail vehicle maintenance facility needed a complete rehabilitation. Work pits and other sections used to maintain the rail fleet were severely corroded and in a state of disrepair.

The project’s scope of work included replacing 4,000 lineal ft of rail, the full demolition and replacement of three work pits, installation of 70,000 sq ft of epoxy flooring, replacing 2,100 lineal ft of elevated rail supports, repair patching of 6,000 sq ft of concrete spall, replacement of the crossover platform, upgrading of pit lighting in each bay and complete replacement of the safety E-Stop system.

One of the project’s biggest challenges was figuring out how to contain concrete dust while the center remained active. The solution for limiting dust and silica was to create a negative pressure environment around the work area through the use of modular fencing, fire resistant plastic and a coppus fan and then ducting the dust to a hepa filter that was placed outside of the building.

Port authority of allegheny county - Rail Maintenance center restoration

Photo by Carson Sharbaugh

Another obstacle was hydro demolition of the pit concrete wall. After consulting with leading bridge hydro demolition experts, the team decided to use Walo Civil’s hydro-demolition robot, which completed the job hydraulically as a five-man team worked two shifts—saving several weeks of time and more than 5,000 worker-hours.

The team had to ensure the safety of not only the project workers but also the client’s employees who were at their own jobs. The aforementioned concrete demolition silica controls kept both groups healthy by limiting dust exposure.

Giving craftworkers ergonomic chipping guns limited vibration and craft fatigue, boosting productivity and morale. And monitoring and controlling noise helped protect everyone’s hearing.

The team, which recorded 48,000 worker-hours with no recordable incidents or lost-time accidents, also developed a site specific plan to make sure everyone was aware of the hazards on the job.

Port authority of allegheny county - Rail Maintenance center restoration

Photo by Carson Sharbaugh

The project team’s most impressive accomplishment, according to team members, was that they were able to complete a 350-ft pit rebuild in as little as 10 weeks, underscoring their careful planning, craftsmanship and a combined effort between survey teams and installation workers. The project has resulted in reduced rail maintenance, improved car mobility throughout the shop and better rail car maintenance functionality. As a result, the Port Authority of Allegheny County can now implement precise rail car adjustments, increasing a car’s overall performance—which directly benefits all riders in the community.

Design elements provide improved functionality and safety throughout the maintenance facility and include LED lighting within all maintenance pits, providing an improved work environment. Drainage installed at each garage opening eliminates exterior runoff from entering the building.

Finally, the facility—which was completed under budget and on time in just 17 months—will host the 2023 American Public Transport Association Rail Conference, where the team and other industry members will discuss innovation and the future of public rail transportation.