Pittsburgh Regional Transit announced Wednesday it is hiring a Philadelphia consultant to review the maintenance and operation of the Monongahela Incline, which has been closed since March 5 because of a problem with its brakes.

Additionally, the agency said it has identified an insufficient part that was used on the incline and is in the process of replacing it.

In a news release, the agency said Talson Solutions will spend the next several months examining the incline and making recommendations “for future contracts and help to identify short- and long-term improvements to the operations and maintenance of the incline.” The incline, which carries about 600,000 riders a year between Station Square on the South Side and Grandview Avenue on Mount Washington, is not expected to remain closed during that review.

The agency decided last month to bring in an outside consultant after the latest in a series of closures due to electrical problems since the completion of an $8.1 million project in March 2023. That work included mechanical and electrical upgrades to the 154-year-old funicular as well as restoring the stations to their original look when they opened in 1870.

Talson and PRT are finalizing their contract, and the consultant is expected to begin work later this month. The company specializes in advising clients on how to conduct capital projects and is expected to file a series of reports with a new review committee the agency is appointing to oversee the work.

The committee will include business owners in the Mount Washington neighborhood who have been frustrated by the closures, which reduce the number of customers visiting their shops and restaurants. PRT is running shuttle buses while the incline is closed.

After the latest closure, the agency determined that a brake resistor and the motor controller on the system failed, causing the cars to remain in the station. Those parts were replaced, but the agency kept the system closed while it tried to determine why the parts failed.

In Wednesday’s release, the agency said an additional review of the system determined that at least one pair of resistors that are supposed to prevent the cars from stopping during a trip were “underrated for that function, causing the resistors to fail.” Officials are reviewing an updated electrical design that will incorporate new resistors, then they will be purchased and installed.

After that work is completed and tested by PRT, the agency will ask the state Department of Labor and Industry to inspect the incline. The agency said it will have an update next week on how long that might take.

Elcon Technologies Inc. of Bridgeville, the electrical subcontractor that did the electrical design on the improvement project, is continuing to work on the incline at no additional cost to PRT.

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at eblazina@unionprogress.com.

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at eblazina@unionprogress.com.