Heth’s Run Bridge: Redux

Heth’s Run Bridge, the first bridge I posted about in my Pittsburgh bridges project, is scheduled to be replaced by the end of next year.  The notice to proceed was expected to be issued last week with construction beginning on Sept. 24 with the installation of a temporary road around the bridge, through the zoo’s parking lot.  According to the schedule that was passed out at a community meeting at the end of August, the bridge is expected to close with all car traffic being diverted to the temporary road on Nov. 1st.  Due to the turning radius constraints with the temporary road, trucks will not be permitted and will instead be by way of the Highland Park Bridge, Route 28 and the 62nd Street Bridge.  If all goes according to schedule the bridge should reopen to all traffic on October 1, 2014.  Additional road work will continue through October.  After final inspections, the project is expected to be officially completed by December 8, 2014.

Heth's Run Bridge's hazardous sidewalk

This is a PennDOT project expected to cost over $18.5 million and is definitely needed.  As I discuss in my Heth’s Run Bridge Part II and Highland Park Bridge posts, the sidewalks here are in desperate need of repair and the proportion of sidewalk to road across the bridge is at least 50 years out of date.  All this is going to be addressed in the reconstruction.  The new bridge is going to have two lanes in each direction to match the roadway on either end.  Additional features of the new bridge will be decorative railing, period lighting, entrance pylons, and “architectural features on the abutments with form liners” (which I believe refers to new urns).  At the community meeting, it was mentioned that the current urns will be saved and kept in a warehouse until a new home is found for them.

In addition to the bridge, about 870 feet of Butler Street are going to be reconstructed including sidewalks.  My understanding is that this is the part of Butler from the Heth’s Run Bridge to the ramps of the Highland Park Bridge, which should take care of my complaints about the condition of the sidewalk for those of us trying to cross the Highland Park Bridge without a car.  This should also clear up the confusion for the outbound traffic of whether this part of the road is one lane or two as the plans include removing the “kink” from the existing alignment.

New signals and ADA ramps will be installed at the intersections of Butler with One Wild Place and with Baker Streets.

Another major part of the project is the excavation under the bridge to an elevation of 762.  According to GoogleEarth, the bridge is at an elevation of 800 ft. I’m not sure if this will restore the bridge to its exact historic height, but it will be close (see the photo of the previous bridge from 1912).  This will also pave the way for connecting this area to the proposed Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard project.

This project will no doubt cause some inconveniences during the construction process, but the construction of the temporary road will significantly cut down on this even though it adds over a month to the process.  Imagine instead, everyone having to go on the truck detour or all the Zoo traffic coming down Morningside Ave and Baker Street instead of One Wild Place and Butler Street.  That would be a true nightmare.  Thank you, PennDOT and the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium for the temporary road.  Thank you, PennDOT and any other funders, Sen. Jim Ferlo, Rep. Dom Costa, and anyone else who had a hand in helping bring about this long overdue project.

I can’t wait to walk over the new bridge when it’s finished!

More information about the project including the design of the temporary road can be found here: http://morningside-pa.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/hethsrunbridge.pdf

PGH’s Expanding Bicycle Infrastructure

The Green Bike Lane

This week was an exciting one for bike infrastructure in the city of Pittsburgh.  The first green bike lane was installed.  I’ve been waiting for this for two years and it surpassed my expectations! (I am sure others, such as the city’s Bike Planner who brought the project about, waited for this moment much longer me.)

Installing the Green Bike Lane

The road here used to be three lanes (left-turn only and two straight), but the right lane was rarely used because just after the next intersection it merges into the left lane.  The lines for the green bike lane were painted late last fall, but I assume the green wasn’t laid then due to weather issues.  As I passed through this area regularly on the bus, I noticed that there were some motorists who either ignored the solid line running along the side and down the middle of the lane or didn’t notice them.  This lane did not have the bike symbol in it yet, so I motorists being a little confused here.  However, in other parts of the city, I have often witnessed cars driving along in clearly designated bike lanes (meaning there are signs posted and the bike symbol painted in the road).  Soon I hope to be able to report that motorists recognize they don’t belong where the green paint is, giving bikers a clearly recognized portion of the road.

Green stands out

One of the really neat things about this bike lane is that it stands out from quite a distance.  I was initially skeptical when I heard it was going to be a green lane–I pictured a grass or forest green color–but this neon green is very eye catching.

10th Street Bridge

The 10th Street Bridge (which a reader pointed out is nicknamed the Phillip Murray Bridge after the first president of the United Steelworkers of America) was the last of the bridges over the Monongahela River for me to walk.  Or so I thought.  It turns out that the Liberty Bridge also has a sidewalk despite the fact that it is a freeway bridge like the Veteran’s Bridge (see post).  So I’ll have to come back to the Liberty Bridge at some point.

I delayed my walk of the 10th Street Bridge in part because it seemed like an awkward one to get to and from.  One end is in the middle of the South Side, but the other connects to the Armstrong Tunnel, which would obviously not be pedestrian friendly.  Last week, I finally went out and walked it and as I hoped, it turns out there is a pedestrian access over the hill to the high-bus-traffic corridor of Fifth and Forbes avenues in the form of a giant staircase that I will address in another post.  This end of the 10th Street Bridge was more well-connected than I had anticipated.  Not only do the stairs provide access to the top of the hill when Duquesne University sits, but there is also access to a parking lot down by the river which also connects to the Three Rivers Trail System.  The best proof of this bridge’s connectivity is the number of other pedestrians I saw walking the bridge.  While I did not keep a count, I noticed that there was a comparatively high level of pedestrian traffic.  It certainly wasn’t as much as the Smithfield Street Bridge (see post), but it was comparable to or higher than that on the other downtown bridges.

My favorite part about this bridge was the dinosaurs painted at the top of the southern tower.  I couldn’t tell if they were official or freelance graffiti, but it seemed appropriate given that Pittsburgh is famous for dinosaurs.  Andrew Carnegie brought the first dinosaur skeletons on display anywhere in the world to his natural history museum.  I found someone else wrote a post about the dinosaurs on the bridge, which the artist apparently calls geese, which suggests that the painting may not have been officially sanctioned.

The post mentioned above about the dinosaurs also comments on the “rusty” condition of the bridge.  While I didn’t notice the rust much (it wasn’t nearly as bad as the 28th Street Bridge), I did notice the condition of the sidewalk.  I thought my theory that the top of the sidewalk had worn away to expose the metal framework supporting the structure rather farfetched, as how could the entire sidewalk (on both sides as far as I could tell) wear out so evenly.  Yet, I cannot think of any other sidewalk I’ve walked that looks like this and given the other bloggers comments on the poor physical condition of the bridge, perhaps my idea isn’t totally crazy?

Fort Pitt Bridge

Pittsburgh has the Three Sisters Bridges with the 6th, 7th, and 9th Street bridges, but I think it should also have the Twin Brothers Bridges with the Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne (see post) bridges.  The two Fort bridges look very much alike as I think my featured images for the bridges show.  The roadway connecting them across the Point further suggests a close relationship between the bridges as do the names themselves.

To be honest, I had not been looking forward to my walk across the Fort Pitt Bridge.  It carries a freeway and the southern end connects to a highway and dirt.  Last spring I was at a conference at a downtown hotel and overheard a hotel employee giving directions to some out-of-town visitors to the Duquesne Incline, which involved crossing the Fort Pitt Bridge and walking along West Carson Street.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I didn’t understand why anyone would send a tourist along that route, as you always want to show tourists the best side of a city.  If the tourists had asked me, I would have sent them across the Smithfield Street Bridge and up the Monongahela Incline.  Then I would have recommended they walk along Grandview Avenue to the observation platform by the Duquesne Incline as it provides a more iconic view of the city.

After walking the route across the Fort Pitt Bridge to the Duquesne Incline myself, I don’t feel so bad about tourists being sent on it.  It wasn’t that bad of a walk and the view from the top is one of the best in the city.

I’ve probably made it quite clear by now that I really don’t like the fenced in bridges.  (See for instance thee Busway Bridges posts for Shadyside, East Liberty, and Millvale Avenue.)  The Fort Pitt Bridge sidewalk is wide and open, though the traffic is a little loud and it might have been hard to hear if I had wanted to have a conversation with a walking buddy.  The worst part was the stretch pictured above alongside the Fort Pitt Museum.

I enjoyed the views from the bridge as I never see the city from this angle.  It certainly does not present the most exciting view of the downtown buildings, but that was one of my goals with this project—to see all the views of downtown.

While crossing the bridge, I realized that I never spend any time on the Monongahela side of the Point.  I’m not sure why, but I always end up on the Allegheny side (or at the tip of the Point before it was under construction) when I come to the park.  This made me realize I really need to explore Point State Park more as the Monongahela side looks quite pleasant.

Busway Bridges: Millvale Avenue

When I crossed the Millvale Avenue Bridge over the busway, I was thinking a lot about the “caged” aspect of many of Pittsburgh’s bridges.  I wrote about this idea in my Highland Park Bridge, Taking the Long Way Round, and Busway Bridges: East Liberty posts.  While a lot of bridges in Pittsburgh have the mess fencing, which often makes me as a pedestrian feel caged in, there are several that do not.  As I prepared to cross this bridge I wondered why that is.

I wondered if perhaps it was to prevent people from jumping off the bridges.  This theory did not make sense though.  First, if that is the case shouldn’t all the bridges have the fences?  One of the times I crossed the Birmingham Bridge, I witnessed a scene that I believe was a group of people working to dissuade a jumper.  The Birmingham Bridge is one of the bridges without a fence.  The second reason this theory doesn’t fit is that on the Millvale Bridge, the fencing is only along part of it.  There is a significant stretch not fenced with a big drop.  The part that is fenced is the stretch over the railroad tracks and the busway.

My next ideas were that perhaps the fences are meant to stop litter from blowing off the bridge and onto the tracks/road/river below or to stop people from throwing things over the bridge.  Again, these don’t make sense.  Litter can blow in from any direction and could blow over the fence.  There is also a parking lot under the Millvale Bridge, so if the concern is about people tossing things over the bridge, why isn’t the fence extended to protect the cars in the lot?

I mention in Busway Bridges: Baum-Centre Corridor that most of the bridges across the busway between Penn Avenue and the Bloomfield Bridge are ugly and unpleasant.  Millvale Avenue Bridge is mostly exempted from this.  The design of the bridge is more aesthetically pleasing than the concrete of the Baum and Centre bridges and the rusty metal of the Highland and Negley bridges.  The area surrounding this bridge is also more residential and less used than the commercial arteries of Baum and Centre.

I thought the aesthetic difference might be explained by the years in which the bridges were built, but that is not the case.  The Highland, Negley, Aiken, Baum, and Millvale bridges across the busway were built in the 1910s or 1920s.  They were all reconstructed while the Penn, Centre, and Bloomfield bridges were all built in the 1960s, ’70s, or ’80s.  The Negley and Aiken bridges also connect with residential areas, so the land use around the bridge cannot explain the slightly different and better design of the Millvale Bridge.

Busway Bridges: Baum-Centre Corridor

Baum Boulevard and Centre Ave run parallel along the border of Pittsburgh’s Shadyside and Bloomfield neighborhoods and are arteries that help people move from downtown and Oakland to East Liberty and other East End neighborhoods.  The Baum-Centre corridor is currently receiving a lot of attention from the perspective of the development of the city.  There is even a community group called the Baum-Centre Initiative made up of representatives from other groups along the corridor.  Their goal is to work together to promote development along the corridor that is beneficial and satisfactory to their respective groups and communities.

This area is attracting interest in part because of its arterial activity, but also because Baum used to be the car dealership district.  Most of the dealerships have closed their locations leaving behind many empty buildings.  Contrary to this disinvestment, Centre Ave hosts one of the UPMC hospitals and an urgent care center was recently added.  From what I’ve picked up, UPMC is working to expand in this area.

The large building between Centre and Baum last housed a party/costume supply store, but I image most of the building was sitting empty.  For about the last year, it has been under redevelopment.  The rumor I have heard is that something related to UPMC is going into the space.

I also heard that UPMC wants to build a parking lot for its employees in this area.  I couldn’t picture exactly where it was to be placed from the description I heard, but I wonder if it is this empty lot off of Baum Boulevard.

Outside of the developments going on near them, my impression of these two bridges is that they are quite ugly.  I am glad that except for when I walked them for my project, I’m in a bus when crossing Centre Avenue’s bridge and in a car when crossing Baum Boulevard’s bridge.  Now that I mention it, that’s how I felt about most of the bridges across the busway I’ve walked (except for the new pedestrian bridge, see July 26 post).  Though I haven’t written the posts for all of them yet, at this point I have walked all the bridges over the busway between Penn Avenue and the Bloomfield Bridge.

My favorite part about walking these two bridges was the view of Bloomfield/Lawrenceville from the Baum Boulevard Bridge.  This view captures two of Bloomfield’s churches (both currently active) with Lawrenceville’s Childrens Hospital sandwiched between them.

Southwark Bridge

After three mono-color bridges (see Jubilee Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, and Millennium Bridge posts), the Southwark Bridge returned to using the unique color schemes that I came to expect of London bridges after walking the first few (see Battersea Bridge, Albert Bridge, Chelsea Bridge, Vauxhall Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, and Westminster Bridge posts).

The Southwark Bridge had the most, or at least slowest, vehicular traffic of any of the bridges I walked in London.  It was also the only one with a painted bike lane.  I believe this lane is part of London’s Cycle Superhighway system.  These bike lanes are intended to make bike travel to central London from the surrounding areas easier (see website).  I really liked the bright blue color of these lanes.  It is highly visible and makes it quite clear this is not a place for cars.  Of course I am sure it costs a lot to paint miles of bike lanes solid.

The little domes on this building had been visible to me long before I saw the rest of the building.  I was in anticipation for several days to learn what it was.  I assumed it would be something really interesting like a church built by Eastern European immigrants, in which case its prominent location on the waterfront would led to a fascinating story, I’m sure.  Consequently I was a little disappointed to learn that it was only a train station.  (Note: I learned what the building was while on the Southwark Bridge, but the view above was taken from the London Bridge on the other side of the station from Southward Bridge.)

In this view upstream, the Millennium Bridge, which was so photogenic from the other angles (see Aug 2 post), becomes invisible against the background of the Blackfriar’s Rail Station spanning the Thames (see Blackfriar’s Bridge post).