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NSSE Security and Transportation

As previously mentioned, the NSSE required hard and soft perimeters in addition to road closures for security.  The USSS determined these perimeters, and a plan was developed to determine the overall effect of these measures on transportation.  The USSS handled approvals for access into the hard perimeter.  The USSS required credentials for access into the main operations center located in proximity to the main venue.  City police monitored access points into and out of the hard and soft perimeters to verify credentials. 

Establishing these perimeters required coordination and resources from all the jurisdictions involved in planning the NSSE because the USSS does not always have the expertise or resources necessary to establish the hard perimeter (its primary responsibility).  This hard perimeter required concrete barricades, heavy vehicles, fencing, and a large law enforcement presence. 

Access and Functional Needs

As mentioned earlier, local jurisdictions led considerations for people with functional needs.  The City of Pittsburgh made arrangements to have public transit on call for people with disabilities who required additional assistance.  This assistance was through shuttle, car, and van services.  These services had access throughout the soft perimeter, and these individuals were able to go where they needed in the soft areas. 

NSSE-Related Events in Other Locations

The transportation plan for the G-20 Summit included additional locations beyond the main meeting location at the convention center.  As mentioned in the NSSE event description, the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, and Rosemont Farm were all venues associated with the NSSE.  As a result, the events held there required some form of transportation planning and consideration.  In addition, considerations were necessary for the hotels around town where leaders and other dignitaries were staying during the NSSE.  Transportation planning considerations for these venues included temporary roadway closures for escorts to full road closures for traffic control purposes and parking restrictions. 

Despite the transportation planning requirements for downtown Pittsburgh, the suburbs of Oakland, and various other parts of the city, planners felt that they had sufficient time to plan for the NSSE.  The DPW was able to dedicate time for making the necessary improvements to infrastructure (e.g., pruning/replacing landscaping, removing graffiti, restriping roads, replacing signs, and repaving) that needed attention prior to the NSSE.  In some cases, the DPW reported having more time than needed, despite having approximately 4 months.

Staff and Resources

The transportation plan influenced staffing levels during the NSSE.  The DPW asked staff to work longer hours to perform their duties (regular and/or NSSE specific) or to support the city’s EOC, which the Pittsburgh Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security runs.  The city’s EOC is also the county EOC, and PennDOT provided staff for it with the city.  The EOC opened at the beginning of the week (September 21st) and had a full staff until the end of the NSSE (September 25th).  The City of Pittsburgh DPW also placed all public works crews either on duty or on call for NSSE support.  

PennDOT determined staffing levels well in advance of the NSSE and requested additional staff be placed in its TMC.  Under normal operations, the PennDOT TMC staffing levels are at three people per shift.  During the G-20 Summit, PennDOT added two additional people to ensure adequate coverage and requested staff from other shifts be prepared to report early if needed.  As a result of early planning and preparedness, PennDOT personnel were ready and able to work longer shifts or make adjustments to their schedules to provide support as requested.  PennDOT did not require or request any back-up personnel or volunteers to support the G-20 Summit. 

In addition, the transportation plan called for resources beyond what the City of Pittsburgh was able to provide.  This is not uncommon to NSSEs.  PennDOT officials reported contacting surrounding PennDOT districts to gather concrete barricades and other resources to support the City of Pittsburgh.  As a result of the requirements needed to support the overall plan, officials from PennDOT provided additional concrete barriers and dump trucks to help support the secure perimeters at the entrance to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.  The City of Pittsburgh DPW also acquired resources, such as concrete barriers, from other areas outside its jurisdiction as needed through existing state and local contracts as well as city resources that were on hand. 

The NSSE used command centers extensively.  PennDOT reported that the Allegheny County Emergency Management Office provided facilities to house a command center for the G-20 Summit.  Additionally, PennDOT operated its TMC.  The City of Pittsburgh also staffed the command.  Both the DPW and PennDOT discussed staffing multiple centers to include the convention center command center, which is close to the convention center site.  DPW personnel assigned to staff this location during the NSSE were primarily there in case it was necessary to move or adjust anything in the field.  The City of Pittsburgh also has a mobile command center; however, the decision was to keep primary staff in one location—the County’s EOC. 


The USSS coordinated the security for the NSSE, working in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Police Bureau.  Planning and coordination for the law enforcement element of the NSSE required importing many officers from surrounding jurisdictions and across the state to help the Pittsburgh Police Bureau. 

To facilitate effective planning and coordination, the USSS established committees that met monthly to address the major elements of the NSSE.  These committees included security and transportation, among many others.  According to interviews with officials involved in the NSSE, the USSS led the committee meetings, which included the appropriate jurisdictional office. 

The City of Pittsburgh Emergency Management/Homeland Security Agency and department heads selected points of contact (POCs) for the various committees.  The USSS received the names of these POCs early in the planning process, and these individuals either co-led or participated on the various committees.  The POCs were selected from those individuals who worked on special events planning with the Pittsburgh Emergency Management/Homeland Security Agency and were familiar with the planning and coordination of major events.  The individual state and city organizations established any department/agency sub-groups on an as-needed basis.  For the City of Pittsburgh, these internal meetings were informal, and requests usually went directly to those individuals who had the authority and resources to complete them. 

The DPW reported that while various members of staff supported other committees, one staff member was the POC to report to the DPW Director.  All committees had representatives from the DPW, because transportation and public works played a role in all aspects of the NSSE, from security to road closures.  As highlighted in Section 7: Coordination, under the City of Pittsburgh’s Emergency Operations Plan, transportation is Emergency Support Function 1.  As such, DPW is responsible for the management of transportation systems and infrastructure during threats or in response to incidents.  They monitor and report the status of the transportation system and infrastructure, identify alternative transportation solutions if there is a failure in the infrastructure, and coordinate and restore those systems or infrastructure affected by an event or incident.  The general perception was that the USSS shared information as soon as it was available.  The Transportation Committee co-leads shared an equal and open relationship that supported accomplishment of tasks.  The USSS facilitated all committee meetings and kept committee members informed at all times about all aspects of the planning for the NSSE.

The Pittsburgh Fire Bureau and the Emergency Medical Services were involved with the Transportation Committee and participated in the discussion of closures, because of the possible effect of closures and limited access on service.  A City official reported that because there are fire stations located on opposite sides of the downtown area, road closures did not affect their services. 


The City of Pittsburgh and PennDOT had approximately 4 months from the conclusion of the G-20 Summit in April 2009 to prepare for the G-20 Summit in September 2009.  From the onset, leadership from host jurisdictions and their transportation components provided support for the NSSE.  Because planning and committee meetings occurred as scheduled, there were no emergency planning meetings required. 

The City of Pittsburgh DPW officials coordinated with PennDOT to focus on transportation planning for those facilities hosting events as well as road closures along parkways for ingress and egress routes.  As part of the planning and coordination required to support the NSSE, PennDOT and city transportation officials implemented a complete closure of I-376 and all associated ramps leading onto I-376, as well as closures of streets in downtown Pittsburgh that lead to this parkway.  These closures were necessary to allow dignitaries to travel from the Pittsburgh International Airport to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and to their hotels throughout the city.  Coordination between PennDOT and the City of Pittsburgh was necessary to successfully implement both rolling and static closures.

Transportation and security plans were critical to safely and efficiently move the President, world leaders, and other dignitaries from one venue to another.  While specific times were not always made available for all dignitary movements, much of the general information such as routes (with the exception of President Obama) and general timing were provided to allow jurisdictions the opportunity to coordinate and prepare.  Each movement required coordination of a specific plan, but each piece was part of one overall plan. 

The City of Pittsburgh and PennDOT developed contingency plans in the event an incident or act of terrorism occurred on a roadway that world leaders or dignitaries were scheduled to use.  According to PennDOT, they developed alternative plans to get those dignitaries to the Pittsburgh International Airport or to the NSSE’s convention center location.  In the event of any incident, the convention center command center was to be immediately advised.

Approval of the overall transportation plan and the traffic detours associated with each venue ultimately rested with the USSS.  The USSS outlined which areas to close for security purposes, and PennDOT, in partnership and collaboration with the City of Pittsburgh, worked to comply with their requests in a manner that “made sense” to all parties involved.

Road Closures

As mentioned, the transportation plan addressed road closures in the local and surrounding jurisdictions to support the NSSE.  The road closures started the midnight before the event (September 23rd), with the hard closure set up first and then the soft closure.  I-376 was closed from the Pittsburgh International Airport to the City of Pittsburgh several times during the first 2 days of the G-20 Summit as dignitaries arrived This was necessary due to the dignitaries’ arrival at various times throughout the 2-day NSSE.  At the end of the NSSE, as world leaders and dignitaries left to return to their respective countries, I-376 was once again closed from the City of Pittsburgh to Pittsburgh International Airport at various times on the evening of September 25th to support safe departures. 

Early in the planning process prior to the NSSE, the USSS made the requests for road closures.  Transportation officials planned in advance the various closures of I-376 with information from the USSS.  The pre-NSSE committee meetings established plans for Interstate highway closures and the Pennsylvania State Police scheduled closures through PennDOT’s Maintenance Manager.  Part of the request involved the use of large trucks to assist in the closure of ramps and access points onto the Interstate. 

The Transportation Committee reviewed any request for a road closure that came in during pre-NSSE planning.  The USSS reviewed anything that appeared out of place, such as a request for the use of public space in the hard perimeter. 

Any additional requests for closures during the NSSE went through the city’s EOC, where the DPW and many other federal, state, and local officials were located to coordinate the NSSE.  Requests going through the EOC to the DPW representative were forwarded to the appropriate part of their organization, or a partner organization, to address and close out.  The representatives at the EOC monitored and tracked these activities through established emergency management software and systems utilized for disasters and emergencies.  The EOC environment makes coordination and collaboration possible due to the location of all the primary stakeholders in one central site. 

PennDOT officials point out that the goal of the transportation plan was to assure the safe and efficient movement of the world leaders and dignitaries to and from the Pittsburgh International Airport, as well as to the specific events during the G-20 Summit.  Transporting dignitaries along I-376 to the airport delayed the motoring public, sometimes for more than an hour on the last day of the NSSE.  That sort of activity and information requires close coordination and planning among various agencies. 

All agencies attending the Transportation Committee meetings coordinated and approved the detour plans associated with closures.  Representatives at those meetings discussed the closure requests with their respective organizational leaders, who agreed with the requests to close certain roadways during the NSSE to ensure safety. 

During the transportation and detour planning process, law enforcement personnel were involved in the planning and ultimately the operations of the detours.  The Pennsylvania State Police played a primary role in organizing the road closures on the Interstate highway system, while the Pittsburgh Police Bureau reportedly was involved with the street closures in downtown Pittsburgh.

Parkways opened permanently on the evening of September 25th.  The Pittsburgh Police Bureau coordinated the process for opening road closures, reinstalling public assets, removing equipment, and notifying the public about the reopening of roads.  PennDOT only removed the ramp closures to the Interstate after the City of Pittsburgh Police removed perimeter barricades and the roadways were deemed safe for traffic.

Parking and Public Transportation

The City of Pittsburgh worked to promote the use of public transportation as an alternative during the G-20 Summit.  Parking was not available to those who worked downtown in the hard perimeter.  Parking garages in that perimeter had to close as well.  Parking in the soft perimeter also closed, while all other areas in the downtown not in any perimeter offered parking with standard metering and hours. 

Local light rail transit transported people downtown but only to the first stop in the city.  Individuals had to walk from that point.  Transit buses, taxis, and transportation for persons with disabilities were able to provide transit throughout the soft perimeter and other parts of the city as needed.  The City of Pittsburgh worked very closely with the USSS to ensure that persons with disabilities and the elderly had appropriate access around the city, with the exception of the hard perimeter, during the NSSE.

According to a PennDOT official, the Port Authority of Allegheny County handled transportation alternatives implemented to increase pedestrian access, including additional shuttle and transit services.  The Port Authority oversees the light rail/subway trains, bus system, and two inclined-plane railways. 

In addition to adjustments made to parking and public transportation, several government offices, churches, banks, and attractions closed between September 23rd and 26th.  The dates and times varied by organization, but all closed on the days of the G-20 meetings.  In addition, nine local schools and five universities closed during the NSSE.  Dismissal times for students varied between the 23rd and 24th, and schools also rescheduled several football games. 

Amtrak suspended service into and out of its downtown Pittsburgh station during the G-20 Summit.  A spokeswoman for Amtrak stated that “trains will still pass through Pittsburgh during [the 24th through the 26th and] passengers on those trains will be allowed to transfer to connecting trains, as long as they don't leave the station's platform.”

Discussions with a DPW official revealed that in the end, the city felt that many people opted to stay home, rather than deal with the traffic.

Work Zones

The planning for the NSSE addressed and coordinated roadway construction and work zones at all levels.  The USSS and Pennsylvania State Police requested the closing of all work zones along I-376 between the Pittsburgh International Airport and the City of Pittsburgh during the G-20 Summit.  In addition, the USSS and State Police inspected each road construction project site to ensure that they were secure.  The City of Pittsburgh also closed down construction and work zones throughout the downtown area.  A City of Pittsburgh DPW official commented that many of the work zones in the downtown area require a police presence for traffic control.  Due to the need for all law enforcement resources supporting the NSSE, work zones were secured and work temporarily halted. 

At the federal and state levels, the order to secure roadway construction work zones was given when officials first visited site locations in advance and explained that the work activities would need to cease during the G-20 Summit.  The USSS and State Police coordinated PennDOT work zones and construction sites by reaching out to the appropriate state officials to coordinate meetings with job-site field personnel responsible for the active work zones.  The USSS and State Police conducted a follow-on site inspection to ensure that the area was safe and that companies had complied with the request to stop work on time.  Work zones in the city closed the night before the NSSE and reopened the day after the event ended (September 26).

The closure of road construction work zones for an NSSE is necessary for several reasons:

  • If a project is located within the hard or soft perimeter, access to the site would be limited by the NSSE.
  • Work zone materials and equipment must be secured to avoid use as a weapon or projectile.
  • Closure of the work zones can provide additional capacity to offset partial or full closure of other area roads due to the NSSE.

The USSS, state and local law enforcement, and the DOT or DPW with jurisdiction over the construction project should jointly make the decision to close construction work zones.

Most road construction contracts include provisions for stopping construction during special events, major holiday travel, and emergencies.  State DOTs and DPWs should review all active construction contracts upon notification of an NSSE in their region affecting a work zone.  The purpose is to provide the maximum amount of time to define and implement the necessary work zone closures causing the least disruption to the contractor and the public.

Concurrent Special Events

As mentioned previously, there was significant notification that this NSSE would take place in downtown Pittsburgh.  However, at the time of the announcement, the MLB schedule was set and underway for the 2009 season.  MLB records indicate that there were home games at the PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, on both days of the NSSE.  These two Pittsburgh Pirates games began midday at 2:00 pm on Thursday and Friday—the same days that world leaders and dignitaries were to arrive and attend meetings in Pittsburgh.  According to officials involved with the NSSE, the G-20 Summit organizers reached out to the MLB to request cancellation of the Thursday game, even though the stadium was across the river from both the hard and soft perimeters.  Despite their efforts, the game did take place.  With overall attendance for the Thursday game sparse, no major traffic problems were associated with the game.  It is unclear whether the notification to the public concerning the arrival of world leaders and dignitaries to the G-20 Summit kept people away. 

Emergency Preparedness

In Pennsylvania, emergency management begins at the municipal level, as required by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Service Code.[1]  Every county, city, borough, and township in the Commonwealth is required to have an emergency management coordinator who the elected officials of the jurisdiction select.[2]  The emergency management coordinator’s role is to develop plans, conduct training, and coordinate all available resources in the community.[3]  The questions developed for the G-20 Summit case study did not include planning for emergency preparedness that affects transportation.  However, planning for emergencies and incidents is required by law in Pennsylvania.  As such, the jurisdictions would defer to existing policies and standard operating procedures if any emergency or incident were to occur. 

PennDOT reported that when the parkway to the Pittsburgh International Airport closed, plans were in place for the state police to clear any stranded vehicles before transport of dignitaries through that portion of the parkway.  For PennDOT officials, reports concerning traffic incidents originated in their TMC and were distributed to the appropriate authority to address the concern.

PennDOT’s approach to internal reporting on traffic incidents, recording, and clearing of those incidents followed established protocols already in place for a non-event day.  The NSSE required no special changes. 

Law enforcement handled incidents involving protestors or any other citizens breaking the law.  If the TMC reported or observed information, it would provide this information to law enforcement.  PennDOT did monitor a specific route along the downtown area to provide additional support near the parkway where CCTV cameras were located.

[1] Allgegheny County, Pennsylvania Emergency Services Emergency Management

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

May 2011
Publication #FHWA-HOP-11-012