Bike advocacy with a view toward cost of improvements

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Anonymous #

This kind of falls out of my last topic, the jail trail access and the chute, which I think all agree is an eyesore.

Does anyone know how much it costs for the city to put in a navigable railroad crossing?

It would be so much more direct and nicer if you could connect from that that little diagonal of trail between saline street and four mile run, and cross the tracks back there winding up in the lot behind the big shed.

Of course, I really want a crossing arm and trail improvements by the pond in schenley, too. And more sharrows / explicit bike lanes, and a couple sidewalk ramps so I don’t have to get off my bike going up the bates street sidewalk, and the ability to navigate straight to the point on the jail trail, and, and, and…

So right, before making noise, I’m thinking it would help to know costs so I know what sort of suggestions are more likely to be received with an open ear, and what will get me tuned out.


jonawebb
Participant
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Oddly, this came up in my conversation with the former traffic engineer for the city last Sunday. He said that the issue came up before, and everyone said it would take ten years to get permissions etc. So nothing was done. That was fifteen years ago. So it is a complex issue that requires a lot of work, but if we don’t start it it will never get done. I’ll see if I can put you in touch with him…


sloaps
Participant
#

It’s quicker, and ultimately cheaper to have a flyover bridge over or portal tunnel under the railroad. Before you ask them the question, their response is No and the feds are on their side.


Anonymous #

Having no money, that I understand, though I guess I’d like to know how much money we’re actually talking about since this is such a heavily utilized area so overdue for improvement. 10 years?? That I don’t understand at all. sloaps, what on earth do you mean the feds are on their side?

It’s my general assumption that the city isn’t going to go out of its way for cyclists, there just aren’t enough of us. My general thought process is that any improvements had better be cheap (paint), or clearly beneficial for other uses of the infrastructure, chiefly walking/jogging.

Eliminating a nasty little bottleneck/dipsy doodle would create a more continuous and far nicer transition from park to trail that would benefit all users. So, I think this qualifies, but again, I have a lot of things on my wish list. Just trying to get an idea of relative costs.


jonawebb
Participant
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It takes 10 years because anything involving changes to the railroad takes that long, as I understand. I don’t think that means it’s impossible or not worth doing.


buffalo buffalo
Participant
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from the link: “The railroad, in its commitment to employee and public safety, is firmly opposed to the establishment of any grade crossing. Both federal and state government policies discourage the creation of new grade crossings.” Not only are the feds on their side, so is Harrisburg.


Anonymous #

That sounds more like never than 10 years. It also makes prospects of a first class connection from the pond to junction hollow substantially dimmer. SIGH.

Do we have an idea of flyover height requirements and costs? I think a tunnel would be friendlier, but making a tunnel without undermining support for a train sounds much more difficult/expensive/political than a flyover.


sloaps
Participant
#

Ask the Steel Valley Trail peeps how much those flyovers by kennywood cost. Maybe we can browbeat UPMC into modifying their private parking lot for their private transit system to accommodate a flyover crossing?


Anonymous #

Where is that UPMC lot you’re mentioning?


sloaps
Participant
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Isn’t that a UPMC lot back there? I don’t think it’s a Pitt lot.


Anonymous #

I had never paid attention to how the lot was divided because I’ve only parked there twice and there were spots then where I was looking, by the trail.

But, I see a transportation solutions van in the street view, which, quick googling suggests UPMC. So, you’re exactly right.

Anyone know what the big shed is for?


Steven
Participant
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I think the Steel Valley Trail bridges were a few million each.

This PDF from Montana suggests a minimum clearance for a bridge over a railroad is 7 meters from the top of the rail. That’s 23 feet, but the SVT bridges seem higher than that to me.


Anonymous #

Hey there, I happen to be a bridge engineer interested in the same question. I’m putting together a study to answer the “how much does it cost” question for every potential pedestrian/bikeway bridge in the city. If you can instruct me how to place a PDF, like Steven did, I’ll show you the executive summary.


Anonymous #

Maybe I’m wrong, but that sounds prohibitively expensive to me. Then again, how much is this used vs. the steel valley trail bridges? It’s a real non rhetorical question, I’ve just never been out there.

Regardless, I feel like I should not be at a loss for potentially cheaper ideas. Let me float this… there are… three tight lanes is it on that little stretch? How about make it two lanes and a much wider (bidirectional without the even worse squeeze at the corners) area for pedestrians/bikes?

What that still doesn’t solve is the frankly terrible little situation on the ramp going back up to the lot. It could be made better than it is today but I’m not sure it could be made good. Would need to get measurements, find out about whether signage/utility poles can be moved at semi-reasonable cost, find out whether the opposing hillside higher up could be dug into where it currently narrows, etc.

So anyways… that’s my idea of the moment, but I’m at a loss for something that really feels any good here. Please share your better ideas!


WillB
Participant
#

Why not just improve/replace the chute? It’s part of an existing route under the tracks, and it would certainly be a lot cheaper than building a bridge over an already elevated train track (and it’s really not that far out of the way to just go under the tracks and around to Swinburne).


jonawebb
Participant
#

@HorseBread, just post the PDF somewhere else and put a link to it here. Or copy and paste the executive summary directly into the post.


Anonymous #

That’s more or less what I am suggesting, using the route, claiming more space on it for bikes and pedestrians wherever possible.

I’m thinking about this some more now and I’m still puzzling how to get what feels like enough space to have a credible bidirectional lane.

Assuming I’ve solved my problems on the other side, which is a big if, what do you do with the tiny section of greenfield avenue under the bridge?

I think you have to claim the lane on the inside of the turn under the bridge to make it work. That would make for an awfully weird intersection.

Again, better ideas appreciated!


Pierce
Participant
#

Wouldn’t a bridge have to be super high? Coming from Greenfield Ave it would be like climbing four or five stories and then coming back down two or three to get back down to the parking lot.

The tunnel idea seems cool. It could kind of make a broad bend to connect up with the jail trail.

Now where it would be cool to have a bridge is over Second Ave from that parking lot over to the Hazelwood Trail


jonawebb
Participant
#

If I was putting in a bridge I would just connect Swinburne Street to Swinburne Street. You don’t have to cross the railroad tracks and Swinburne Street runs right up into South Oakland, which is a pretty useful place to be. Back in the days when Pittsburgh was Steel City they would do things like this just for kicks.

Edit: the more I think about it the more I like this idea. You would just build a ramp up the hill to the Swinburne Street bridge. That would make a decent connection between the Eliza Furnace trail and South Oakland (removing the need to do something about Bates Street) and also connect Eliza Furnace to Greenfield without having to use Second Avenue. (I’m assuming that we could take some space away from drivers on the Swinburne Bridge and Swinburne Street up the hill.)


Anonymous #

Given the height requirements, I’m not sure there’s any way to make it make sense coming down from Schenley park.

The only way it makes sense coming from Greenfield avenue would be if you got to it from Frazier street (which would be pretty sweet actually, but complex and expensive).

So, I think the flyover idea is pretty much toast. Thanks for the mention of the Hazelwood trail… I didn’t realize there was another trail right there. How do you get there now? Where can you take it?


Marko82
Participant
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@ jonawebb, I was thinking the same thing. If you turn on Swinburne Street and keep going straight instead of turning into the lot, you could cut out a lane on that hillside and connect to either the other end of Swinburne or Boundry Street without crossing the tracks. I’m not sure how stable that hillside is, but it would probably be less red-tape than crossing the RR tracks.

http://goo.gl/maps/LbRKV


Anonymous #

I very, very much like the elegance of connecting Swinburn street to Swinburn street.

My hesitation is that it seems like it would be really expensive due to the height, elevation change, and need to do another piece of major work if this were in any way help connect the park and the trail.

Also, it looks to me like connecting Swinburn to Swinburn wouldn’t make for a great route for cycling into southern Oakland, the road looks too narrow for a bike lane going up, and it looks like it would be difficult to widen it.

Not trying to throw water on things, I love the ideas, just want to focus a little more on what can be done cheaper and quicker.


Pseudacris
Participant
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What about getting rid of the jersey barrier and putting in paint and reflective bollards like they have out at Homestead?


Pierce
Participant
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I think the problem is that there’s not enough width inbound and it’s probably hard for 18-wheelers to make that turn without cutting into oncoming traffic;

It’s also used as a bus stop, which complicates matters because people are standing around in what is otherwise a right of way for cyclists


Anonymous #

Almost anything would be less of an eyesore than what we have.

That said, the aesthetics, aren’t the big problem here, functionally we just have a nasty “bike! bike!” bottleneck in a place that intersects a lot of people’s routes.

Pierce thanks for pointing out the other issues here, too. Bus stops can be moved a little, but we really have to support 18 wheelers here too? UGH.


Pierce
Participant
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Another idea would be to merge the two sections of 2nd Ave together by making a larger train bridge and then have Greenfield Ave connect like a T.

Gah, just realized the Collision Center would be in the way for that to work


jonawebb
Participant
#

Don’t forget that if you connect the Eliza Furnace trail to the Swinburne Street bridge that automatically avoids the chute for bike traffic down the bridge. Riders would just turn onto the Swinburne Street bridge instead.

That leaves traffic from the Panther Hollow trail, though. You could also connect to the Swinburne Street connector the same way, staying on the west side of the railroad tracks the whole time.

And you could widen Swinburne Street by cutting into the hillside if you couldn’t get away with just taking space away from cars. My guess is that car traffic uses Swinburne Street as an alternate route mainly, and it wouldn’t be a big deal to narrow the streets a little.

As a result, you get rid of the chute, make a good connection to Oakland from Eliza Furnace trail (eliminating the need to do something about Bates St), and make a new bike connection between Greenfield and South Oakland.


Anonymous #

Guys, The railroad belongs to CSX. CSX does not use it and it cannot drop it since it in use by Amtrack. Government does not let CSX to drop it completely. I can see Schenley tunnel as a part of our dispatching software for CSX. On a left side (if you stay north) there is a UPMC parking lot. And this lot is not a part of the trail. So you have to get permission from city, from government, from CSX, from UPMC. And liability is everywhere.


Anonymous #

Anonymous #

@byogman 2nd Ave is a snow route.


Anonymous #

Mikhail, you make me want to cry. But if you stay left aren’t you skirting the CSX/federal government involvement at least? What about the city using eminent domain if need be to get that little strip of pavement from UPMC to connect the two ends of their own street together? Seems like a pretty good reason for it and it’s not like it would be displacing anything.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think this would be expensive and entail a range of potential complexities depending on what the hillside gives you to work with. But legally at least, wouldn’t this approach simplify things quite a bit?


buffalo buffalo
Participant
#

Swinburne street is already quite narrow–it’s barely two lanes wide, no shoulder. Though there’s not a whole lot of traffic, it tends to move quite fast, often too fast for conditions—this is the road where a schoolbus once missed a curve and dove through someone’s house. There’s no room to cut into the hillside, either; there’s problems with subsidence already (though mostly, admittedly, further up towards Oakland).

No idea what the warehouse is, though I was able to figure out its address is 88 Swinburne if anyone wants to dig further. Interestingly, its ownership is very similar to, but slightly different from, the parking lot wrapping around it (which is signed for UPMC, though they apparently just lease it).

It might be possible to squeeze something in between the railroad and the cliff, running at railroad height between the end of the Furnace trail and the bottom of Boundary Hollow–it does, for what it’s worth, appear to be commercial-zoned and city owned. But I have a feeling you’d have to do a lot of digging to get us far enough away from the tracks for the RR–or anyone else–to be comfortable with it.


jonawebb
Participant
#

It seems like that’s the best, simplest option — connect the Eliza Furnace trail with the Panther Hollow trail by cutting into the hillside and staying to the west of the tracks the whole way. At least that way you don’t have to deal with railroads (assuming you stay far enough away) and don’t have to build any bridges. Maybe retaining walls. But it’s a shame not to get a way up into South Oakland out of it.


brian j
Participant
#

I thought the warehouse was used by the DPW? I’ve seen city trucks parked there in the past.


Anonymous #

When I started the thread, I was hoping there was a way to bite this off that also was economical.

It was fun to bat around there are good ideas here, but unless HorseBread wants to jump out and say… hey guys, this actually isn’t so bad, I’m going to assume that it is, and move on to other things.

I’m not a natural salesman that can smile my way through sticker shock and sell a vision. I’m sorry if I raised anyone’s hopes. I’m much better at being annoying and getting people to throw a bone in my direction to shut me up. That puts a low limit on the price tag.

I still am actually, looking for stuff like that, but maybe that’s better handled by starting an area of the page for requested sharrows, etc.. things like that. Just a thought.


jonawebb
Participant
#

I think you started an interesting discussion that led to some new ideas. It is good to have this sort of thing thought about because every so often money really does become available for this kind of thing and it helps a lot to be able to propose some possible ways to use it. Plus, maybe someone will get inspired and work to make it actually happen — that’s where the TRHT, GAP, Eliza Furnace, etc., trails came from.


Anonymous #

In regards of building. Just found (legistar.city.pittsburgh.pa.us/attachments/5665.doc):

Resolution amending Resolution No. 545, effective August 14, 2002, entitled “Resolution Providing for a Lease Agreement with Peter N. & Maria DePasquale, owners and/or other assignees or transferees, for warehouse and office space together with the right to utilize right of way surrounding said property known as 88 Swineburne Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 for a term of (5) five years with an option to extend for (5) five years by amending the annual lease rental payable by the lessee during the option term.

Whereas, Resolution 545 authorized the City of Pittsburgh (“City”) to lease property at 88 Swineburne Road for a term of five (5) years, commencing February 6, 2003 and ending on February 7, 2008; and

Whereas, CITY was granted an Option to extend the Lease for an additional term of five (5) years, which Option is requested to be exercised by CITY, and the City and Peter N. & Maria DePasquale agreed upon the following annual rentals for five (5) years;

Be it resolved by the Council of the City of Pittsburgh, as follows:

Section 1. The Mayor, the Directors of the Department of Public Works and the Department of Finance , on behalf of the City of Pittsburgh, are hereby authorized to enter into an amended Lease Agreement with Peter N. & Maria DePasquale, in a form approved by the City Solicitor, providing for exercising the extension term of five (5) years and adjust annual Lease rentals during the 6th through 10th years of the Option term based on the utilization of the CPI Index as currently defined in said lease on page 2, paragraph 2B during each of said extension years, plus all applicable Real Estate Taxes on said property which amounts are to be chargeable and payable subject to and contingent upon the annual appropriation of funds for said agreement of lease from the following:

Department of Public Works, Rent Building, in the amount of $78,821.04 PLUS the current 2007 CPI index as defined in said agreement plus all applicable real estate taxes on said leased property from Organization 420000, Subclass 140, Fund 1000, Account 560100, Budget Year 2008 and subsequent years thereafter; With all other terms and conditions of the Lease to remain in full force and effect.


Anonymous #

Slightly OT but I prefer this access to Oakland from 2nd Ave (and from Jail trail) — http://rockalley.org/routes/rock-alley/ — but it looks like it goes nowhere soon.


Anonymous #

BTW — http://rockalley.org/routes/bike-routes/swinburne-street/ Swinburn street in pictures


Anonymous #

http://rockalley.org/routes/bike-routes/panther-hollow/ — ha-ha, look for “Saline Street to Eliza Furnace Trail”.

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