Borough Manager Ben Estell Shares How Dormont is Improving Mobility for Residents


Rachel Windsor | March 13, 2023

The Borough of Dormont, south of Pittsburgh, is home to just over 8,000 residents and barely three-quarters of a square mile in size. Municipalities outside major cities quite often lack the capacity to take on progressive transportation and infrastructure projects, especially in southwestern PA. Dormont, however, might serve as a model for a way forward. The borough has been making great strides to improve mobility in its community. Mobilify’s Rachel Windsor sat down with Borough Manager, Ben Estell, who shared some of the exciting projects and initiatives that are taking place to improve transportation, safety, and overall quality of life in Dormont.

A Brief History of Transportation in Dormont

Transportation is a core part of Dormont’s identity. There is a long and rich history of transportation innovation in the borough. The first form of mass transit Dormont saw was an interurban railway (some called it a ‘trolley’), which began running in 1901 from Pittsburgh to Washington, PA. Then, in the 1920s, the borough became part of a streetcar network that connected residents to downtown Pittsburgh and other nearby communities. Eventually, both the interurban and streetcars were replaced with buses. In the 1980s, light-rail transit (locally often called the ‘T’) was built from Downtown Pittsburgh area into its southern suburbs including through Dormont, adding to its bus service replacing what remained of the urban streetcar network. Over the years, as the transportation landscape changed, Dormont has continued to adapt and implement new mobility options for residents.

Positive Projects in Dormont

There are several major projects that Estell has overseen in his 8 years with the Borough. The Potomac Avenue project was one of the most extensive. This massive project included: resurfacing major roadways; creating better stormwater infrastructure to deal with storm surge and heavy rainfalls; removing invasive plants and replacing them with PA-native trees; eliminating parking spaces to create bump-outs at intersections, making crossing the road safer and easier; narrowing lanes to reduce speeding; and extending the business district. Each of these improvements are impactful on their own—but together, this project resulted in massive progress for infrastructure in Dormont.

Another impressive, newer initiative is the Shared Streets Program. Starting in 2018, residents have been able to request that their block be blocked off to automobile traffic. During the summer, drivers are asked to not use roads that are designated as part of this program, unless they live on the street. Under this program, children and adults of all ages are free to walk, ride bikes, gather and play in their neighborhood streets without the risks from traffic.

Other notable changes in the borough relate to zoning and new development ideas. Dormont recently updated their zoning code to include form-based code with transit-oriented districts. Under these new codes, there are no longer parking minimums, but rather parking maximums to limit the number of cars taking up space on community streets. Furthermore, PRT and Dormont have released a letter of intent to construct a transit-oriented development project at the Dormont Junction station. This proposed project would create new, mixed-income – including affordable – housing and commercial office space on West Liberty Avenue, thereby increasing the amount of people living, working, and travelling in the borough.

Future Improvements

Clearly, Dormont has a lot to be proud of for their mobility improvements over the years. Estell has a few priorities moving forward, for how to continue improving transportation in the borough. He says that adding bike lanes, repairing sidewalks, building new accessible ramps, and investigating traffic calming measures on West Liberty Avenue are all ways to better the community.   

Dormont’s commitment to improving transportation, safety, and quality of life for its residents is inspiring. The borough’s mobility efforts, combined with its rich transportation history, have made Dormont a model for other smaller municipalities throughout our region that wish to become more sustainable, equitable, and accessible. Thank you, Ben, for chatting with Mobilify about your borough’s work! We look forward to seeing the continued progress in Dormont in the coming years.


Sources and Further Reading: 



Courtesy of: Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, Penn Station Better Busway Report, 2017
Courtesy of: Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, Penn Station Better Busway Report, 2017

Photos from

This Area is Widget-Ready

You can place here any widget you want!

You can also display any layout saved in Divi Library.

Let’s try with contact form: