Five blocks of Penn Ave in Garfield to be Phase 1 of corridor rehab

Note: This was written by guest correspondent and Bike Pittsburgh member, Rachel Dingfelder.
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A report from the Penn Avenue Corridor Phasing Plan Meeting, 4.16.09

Thursday evening marked the second public meeting for the Penn Avenue Corridor Phasing Plan, developed by the City of Pittsburgh, the Department of Public Works, and the Bureau of Transportation in conjunction with engineering film L. Robert Kimball and Associates. Among those in attendence were representatives from Kimball & Associates, Assistent Director of the Department of Public Works Pat Hassett, Aggie Brose of the Penn Avenue Corridor Phasing Plan Committee, local business owners, area residents, cyclists, Bike Pittsburgh and Councilman Patrick Dowd (the only elected official in attendence).

The goal of the meeting was to present plans for the first phase of construction along a 2-mile section of Penn Ave. from 34th street to Negley Ave. Phase 1 of the plan, which focuses on the reconstruction of the 5-block section of Penn between Gross and Atlantic, is slated to begin construction in 2011. Until then, the city will be working with Kimball to lay out the details for this section, including plans for street-light replacement, road resurfacing, and bike racks. This section of Penn will cost between $4 and $5 million to repair. The city has $1.5 million slated for this project and is seeking funding from various organizations to make up the rest. Current federal transportation stimulus money is not going into this project, though it may be eligible for stimulus funds in the future now that the city has new data showing a need for reconstruction along Penn.

The “transit and cycling opportunities station”

Patrick Hassett presented problems that Kimball and the city have identified based on studies done in the past year, as well as input from local residents and businesses at the first public meeting last March. They found that the greatest needs for many sections of this two-mile stretch include road resurfacing, energy-efficient LED streetlights, and the replacement and addition of street trees. Other important needs included sidewalk repair, making the sidewalk accessible to the handicapped, the removal of unused poles, repairing traffic signal equipment, and repairing utilities. Kimball and the city will be overhauling Penn section-by-section instead of tackling each problem one-by-one for the entire corridor.

So – by the end of 2011 the city will spend about $5 million to make 5 blocks of Penn more of a “complete street.” What does all of this mean for cyclists? Kimball’s Sidney KaiKai, who represented the Transit/Cycling Opportunities study said that the city will be installing bike racks during Phase 1 of the Penn Corridor project, so cyclists should expect to see more racks between Gross and Atlantic in the next few years. The city will be working with Bike Pittsburgh to find the best places for those racks. Cyclists should also expect to see signs along the Penn corridor as well as the Coral Street corridor, indicating that these streets are bike routes.

When asked by a cyclist if the city made any plans to put in bike lanes or shared-lane markings, or “sharrows,” KaiKai said that Penn is too narrow and that having on-street parking makes it impossible to install a bike lane. Kimball Associates recognizes that Penn is a difficult and stressful street to bike on in their study, but they were unable to make any recommendations besides the use of Coral as a parallel route. A further study could be done to determine whether parking is necessary on both sides of Penn, as the elimination of one side would create room for bike lanes or sharrows. Demand for parking will most likely decrease once the current free parking is converted to metered parking. KaiKai said that Phase 1’s plans for street resurfacing, LED-light installations, and better street conditions in general, cyclists will have an easier time riding on Penn. Well, at least a 5-block section of Penn for now.

When asked if there were any plans to make the Woolslayer/Comrie/Coral route a specially marked bikeway, KaiKai, who admittedly doesn’t ride a bike, said that Coral is currently in great condition for cyclists and that Kimball found Woolslayer/Comrie unfit for bicycles as many small children play on that narrow street. Therefore, Kimball and Associates does not have any recommendations for making this corridor into a bikeway. KaiKai said that if this were to happen, Bike Pittsburgh and the city would have to work together on this idea.

-Rachel Dingfelder

For more information about the Penn Ave Corridor Phasing Plan, check out the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation website


  • erok says:

    i don’t really understand what they came up with that was visionary.

    LED lighting: they are planning on doing the whole city

    Repaving: it will get done eventually anyway

    trees: ok, i’m sure it will add, but not a big change

    this is an opportunity to be visionary and it seems like it’s going to be the same, but with some decorations on it.

  • StuInMcCandless says:

    I’m not convinced that Comrie/Woolslayer is that much an improvement over duking it out with cars on Penn. The closest I’ve ever come to colliding with another vehicle while on a bike happened on Comrie or Woolslayer. A 10-year-old kid riding a bicycle on a sidewalk. Neither of us could see the other because of a tall hedge. There wasn’t time for either of us to swerve or stop, just luck that we weren’t even closer/faster or one of us would have T-boned the other.

  • rachel_ding says:

    Comrie/Woolslayer is miserable to ride on because of all the potholes, in addition to it being really difficult to see other vehicles coming around the corner.

    It’s ridiculous that KaiKai said the main reason for not making Comrie/Woolslayer into a special bike corridor is that children play on that street and bicycles could be dangerous. Cause, you know, drivers who use that street as an alternative to Penn aren’t a danger to children at all.

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