Dec 7: Public Meeting on West Carson Street Changes
Sorry for the late notice, but we just found out about this moments ago. The meeting is next Wednesday, December 7th from 5-7 PM in the West End at the James Center 327 South Main Street
Thanks to @swalfoort for these notes from a meeting with PennDOT and their consultant on the project from a year ago:
Route 51 Viaduct/West Carson Street Presentation ? David Cooper of the firm JMT presented the plans for improvement of Route 51 (West Carson Street) between the West End Circle and Stanhope Street, which forms the border between the City of Pittsburgh and McKees Rocks.
The purpose of the project is to replace a structurally deficient viaduct. In conjunction with that project objective, the project will also look to increase the vertical clearance at a CSX railroad crossing from 15 ft to 16 ft or more by slighting depressing the roadway in that location. The project will also provide enhanced bicycle and pedestrian accommodation, as this corridor serves as a key connector between downtown Pittsburgh and the west end communities in the City of Pittsburgh and the western suburbs beyond. Much needed drainage improvements and the enhancement of missing or substandard barriers and curbs will also be accomplished with this project.
A pedestrian/bicycle checklist completed as part of this project indicates that there are both bike/ped “generators” in this corridor, and visible pedestrians. A formal pedestrian count to determine HOW MANY pedestrians will be completed in the preliminary engineering stage of project development.
Currently, the roadway features a 38 ft. cartway width in a three traffic lane configuration (2 lanes outbound, 1 lane inbound), with a key pinch point at the railroad underpass. There are sidewalks the entire length, although they are not continuous and generally in severely deteriorated condition. On the river side of the road, the sidewalk is actually cantilevered over a shelf created by the adjacent railroad, with plywood used to cover gaping holes in some locations.
***The roadway has experienced 60 serious accidents and 4 fatalities during the time evaluated by the consultants.***
In their evaluation, it was determined that the three traffic lanes would have to be retained between the West End Circle and Corliss Street, although in theory a road diet (dropping one lane of traffic) could be feasible between Corliss and Stanhope, if turn lanes were provided at Tabor and Corliss Streets. To accommodate pedestrians and bicycles, a 12 ?14’ shared use path could be created on the river side of the road, which would be cantilevered out from the roadway. The estimated cost for this sort of improvements is about $20 million. In working on other design concepts for this updated roadway, several alternative approaches to pedestrian and bicycle accommodation were evaluated.
These options included:
? A three lane traffic configuration that had lane widths of 14ft, 10 ft and 14 ft, with 5 ft sidewalks on each side
? A 6 ft. exclusive bike lane inbound, with three traffic lan es having widths of 11 ft, 10 ft and 11 ft. This design would also include 5 ft sidewalks between the West End Circle and Stanhope
Street. (Design preference was for a bike lane inbound, and a Share the Road Program outbound)
All sidewalks will be replaced, and an effort will be made to eliminate the cantilever section between the busway entrance and the West End.
In response to questions from the meeting attendees, the consultant indicated that the project will leave an incomplete connection between the pedestrian/bicycle facilities in the West End Circle, and the West Carson Street viaduct. The bike lane that comes into the West End Circle will end before the ramp
to the West End, requiring bikes to share the road for a bit before reaching the new path on West Carson Street. This will require that cyclists using this connection be “bike savvy” and confident of their
abilities to ride in traffic. There will also be no bike lane or special bike accommodation on the ramps in the vicinity of the Circle. In that sense it is an imperfect solution. No new signals are anticipated as part of this project and an effort will be made to make address visibility concerns in the vicinity of barriers
and retaining walls, such as at the entrance to the West Busway at the eastern limits of the project area.
There was some consideration at one time of extending the bike lane across the ramp, as is done on the Birmingham Bridge. PennDOT indicated that they may take a look at that option again.
Other comments that came out during general discussion:
? Special crossings will be created for pedestrians and bicyclists at key locations.
? The City and the Port Authority agree that there are few outbound transit boardings in the project area.
? At the request of meeting attendees, PennDOT will consider extending bike lane markings across the entrance to the West Busway (technically just outside the project limits) and make other efforts to make bicycles and pedestrians visible at this skewed, slightly obscured intersection.
? Lighting under the railroad underpass will be improved
? Issues of local business owners, residents parking on the sidewalk on the inbound side of West Carson Street have been incorporated into project design. Alternative park ing options are being developed. Enforcement will be an issue that is outside the parameters of this project.
? All signals will be equipped with loop detectors or other equipment that will effectively detect cyclists
? Colored bike lane painting in key areas may be considered
In response to the discussi on that followed the presentation, PennDOT invited inquiries from the attendees on the status/plans for other projects in PennDOT District 11. A few of the observations:
? The Route 51/88 project will have sidewalks when the project is complete
? PennDOT is aware of the need for bike loop detectors at traffic signals, working toward 100% utilization
? Sidewalks will be installed in the Wexford Flats area; will use cameras for signal detection, which are effective for sensing cyclists
? the implementation of shared use markings, or sharrows, where bike lanes end should make the transition into traffic easier for cyclists
? PennDOT can install sharrows in PA, but the municipality must agree to maintain them
? SPC will provide PennDOT District 11 with a list of locations where existing sewer grates, drains or scuppers are known to pose a hazard to safe cycling due to the design or orientation of
structures, or due to deferred maintenance
And, as a point of clarification….
What Scott posted above is a report on where the project design stood a year ago. I have heard that changes have been proposed that will eliminate some of the pedestrian-bicycle elements described above. We will learn more about the “current” design at the meeting on December 7th. If information becomes available before then, we will be sure to share it widely.
The official meeting notice from PennDOT is posted below.
This meeting will address all elements of project design, not just the ped-bike elements. The consultants and PennDOT met with the SPC ped-bike committee a year ago, so they know this is an important regional project. Yet it is reported that important elements of the project have been altered to eliminate some of the previously proposed ped-bike elements.
To make sure that PennDOT gets the message that ped-bike accommodations on this corridor are important, and need to be retained, we need to see a good turnout at this meeting!
West Carson Street Project Public Meeting Next Wednesday in the West End of the City of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA – PennDOT District 11 is announcing a public information open house meeting to discuss a proposed project to reconstruct portions of the West Carson Street Corridor (State Route 0051) between the West End Circle and Stanhope Street in the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, will be held on December 7, 2011.
What: West Carson Street Viaduct Replacement and Corridor Improvement Project Public Information Open House Meeting
Where: James Centre, 327 South Main Street, Pittsburgh PA, 15220
When: 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Who: The meeting is open to everyone.
The purpose of the meeting is to present project plans, details and schedule information. Plans will be on display and input and feedback from attendees will be accepted. The proposed project, tentatively scheduled for construction in April 2013, will include viaduct structure replacement, roadway reconstruction, roadway drainage, traffic signal and sidewalk improvements.
The meeting location is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition, if you or an individual with whom you are familiar does not speak English as their primary language and who has a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English desires to participate in this meeting or if you require special assistance to attend and/or participate in this meeting or need additional information please contact the Project Manager, Guy Rettura at (412) 429-3787. Pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age, or disability. If you feel that you have been denied the benefits of, or participation in a PennDOT program or activity, you may contact the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Bureau of Equal Opportunity, DBE/Title VI Division, at 717 787-5891 or 800-468-4201.
Area residents who wish to learn more about the project or the public meeting can call Guy Rettura, P.E., P.L.S., Project Manager at (412) 429-3787 or by email at email@example.com .
I would like to see the city end of this tie into being able to use the abandoned railroad line from the WEC to the Wabash Tunnel, as described in the last paragraphs of this comment on this thread, and the first paragraph of the next comment (both by me, Summer 2010).
I was just thinking about this this morning. Right now, we can’t use Wabash because Port Authority has a paperwork problem. We can’t use the abandoned rail line because it just isn’t usable. But if they’re talking about the western end of this now, then now is the time to get that piece in place.
Just imagine: A level, traffic-free path from McKees Rocks and The Bottoms into the city!
I should be able to get to this.
“A formal pedestrian count to determine HOW MANY pedestrians will be completed in the preliminary engineering stage of project development.” Hopefully someone is/was bright enough NOT to do this during the Dec/Jan/Feb time of the year?
“In their evaluation, it was determined that the three traffic lanes would have to be retained between the West End Circle and Corliss Street,…” I find this conclusion extremely questionable.
“Sidewalks will be installed in the Wexford Flats area;…” ? Oopsie, someone not watching their cutting and pasting.
Anybody know if the the McKees Rocks CDC and ORTC people are being involved with this? Pretty significant to both.
@edmonds – great to know you might be able to be there. I’ve sent the meeting materials to both McKees Rocks CDC (Taris) and to Vince and Nathan at ORTC.
The meeting notes that Scott posted were GENERALLY relavant to a presentation about the West Carson Street project. The overall discussion also included a brief recap of ped-bike relevant projects in PennDOT District 11 overall, hence the Wexford Flats reference. While not directly relevant to the question at hand, there are people on this board from all areas of the region (as you know…..) so, including that text might have been intentional, just as an FYI. But, my first thoughts were the same as yours.
Edited to add: While I have reached out to McKees Rocks and ORTC, please extend your own invitations to whomever you think relevant. We’d like to see good participation at this meeting, as I think it’s a very important commuting corridor.
Sidewalks *are* being installed in the Wexford Flats project, JSYK. A perfect business district in which NOT to ride a bicycle UNLESS on a sidewalk. But that’s a different argument.
I too will try to make it to the meeting.
Anonymous 12/06/2011 at 2:10pm #
In addition to all points mentioned above, what really needs discussed is the usage of the lanes by cars. Between the Rox and the West End Bridge, it’s one lane coming in, and two going out. Sure, this may be for evacuation purposes or something similar and cannot be changed, but that stretch of the road is unnecessarily JAMMED in the morning with loads of people turning into Corliss Street or going up onto the West End Bridge. Not to mention the stoplights are NOT timed properly at Corliss St. and the Busway, because this causes quite a bit of backups in the morning.
As someone who heads home everyday via this route, as long as the road gets repaired and not patched with metal again, we only need one lane for leaving.
Agreed. I have VERY rarely observed any significant slowdowns outbound. Why I seriously question the consultants conclusion that a lane outbound cannot be eliminated.
Plenty of width available at the moment for one lane inbound and outbound, with space for bikes. Buses need the left turn lane at the busway.
Buses at the busway/Carson junction often have to wait an unduly amount of time. As a regular rider every day since the busway opened (Sept 10, 2000), it’s always struck me how tipped the tables are in favor of car traffic. I remember sending a whole bunch of tweets in 2010, stopwatch in hand, timing the wait each morning at that light.
Outbound morning, a bus first in line at the light might wait 60 to 90 seconds to make the turn. Inbound, there’s a sensor to trip the light, but half the time buses just make a right on red. If the trip sensor could be put back up the busway a few hundred yards so the light could guarantee a green for inbound buses, that would help level the playing field. Changing the inbound sensor and/or timer to limit the wait to 30 seconds, or even 15, would help the busway a *lot*.
found this image on google street view. it looks like it should be in the Complete Streets Manual as a “before” shot with the cyclist, the person waiting for the bus who clearly had to put her life in danger to do so, and the wiiiiiiide wiiiide road.
that dude is so close to the curb he looks like he’s riding on it.
for the sake of this conversation, here’s a link to the fatalities on this road from 2001-2009
@erok here’s a link to the fatalities
My work browser will not let me access that site. Could someone summarize?
I asssume it is higher than a road of that length and level of traffic would warrant.
I think it’s obvious to us here, that there needs to be a strong bicyclist and pedestrian presence at this meeting.
I think it’s great that Edmunds59 is going! Dude, I will buy you a beer when I get the chance!
Who else is going?
does anyone else think it is folly to use the actual number of bikers and pedestrians using the area to determine whether or not pedestrian and bike facilities should be put in?
@HV – what do you propose as an alternative measure? It seems to me the numbers of cyclists and pedestrians is pretty relevant information for the state to use in determining where to spend the money.
It seems to me the numbers of cyclists and pedestrians is pretty relevant information for the state to use in determining where to spend the money.
In cases like West Carson where the pedestrian infrastructure is poor-verging-on-dreadful, your number of such users would be very low, implying (from a budget allocation perspective) that there is no need to improve things for so few people.
I don’t know what a better metric would be…it likely would have to be based on projected usage, not current, in any case.
@reddan – I see… so it’s a sort of chicken/egg question, or even “if you build it, they will come” argument. I get it.
For most intersections, current ped/bike use is the best measure. For West Carson. it’s important that if those stats come up in the meeting that someone points out that ped/bike use might be much higher if the route wasn’t a mortal hazard.
There aren’t many other ways to get south-west on a bicycle. That is a critical factor here.
First time I rode to the West End on a bike it was for a February Saturday night blues show. I was so shaken by the trip, that I walked into a police station to ask about a better way back. (Those of you that know me, know how much I would avoid a police station on Saturday nights.)
There wasn’t one – Except the route was better inbound.
does anyone else think it is folly to use the actual number of bikers and pedestrians using the area to determine whether or not pedestrian and bike facilities should be put in?
I certainly do. it’s like trying to see where to put a bridge based on how many people are swimming across. If you build it, they will come. it’s pretty much proven to work for any mode, car, bike, ped, bus
Right now it’s kind of like gauging potential usage for the GAP trail between McKeesport and Ohiopyle based on counting the number of cyclists found on that rail line during a month in 1980.
A much better metric for potential usage would be to use a count of cyclists and pedestrians on a comparable route, such as from downtown to Homestead, or downtown to Millvale. I think that route would see that kind of leap with proper infrastructure.
I also plan to ask what consideration the consultants gave to thru-cyclists on the GAP to the Ohio River Trail, as this will be THE major connection.
I should have a couple of cocktails before the meeting, loosen things up! Hee-hee.
The main reason I am going is that I *have* used that corridor on multiple non-motorized occasions. There likely are not that many people who have both walked and biked West Carson between WEC and Stanhope when there was a clear alternative.
One of these times was to hike from the West End Bridge to Sheraden after a 14″ snowstorm at night, early 2003. Running, actually. Couldn’t use the sidewalk, so ran in the driving lane, hurdling onto the sidewalk when a car (frequently) came.
Yeah, PennDOT engineers, try that some dark cold snowy night.
@erok: it’s like trying to see where to put a bridge based on how many people are swimming across
Awesome example. I shall likely plagiarize at some point.
I really want to go to this but am trying to figure out how to get there since I’m on crutches again. Just saw a quick blurb in the PG and am sharing it widely to try to drum up attendance.
OK so it looks like I can catch a bus fairly easily, but having never attended a meeting like this, I have some questions for you experienced folks.
1) I’m going to be about 30 minutes late due to work. Is that OK?
2) Should I prepare some comments about the importance of bike/ped infrastructure?
3) If not, what should I do once I’m there?
Also it would be cool to meet everyone in person, so I’ll make it easy: I’ll be wearing the bright green coat and rocking the crutches.
I’m terribly excited to see the western neighborhoods getting some attention for infrastructure improvements. I really love my side of town, but it could really use some attention.
I have a couple of comments to share here.
We do most of the bike counts that are done in the region (although with considerable help from volunteers solicited here and elsewhere, thank you). We do them primarily because the first question we tend to hear is “how many cyclists (or pedestrians) are there, anyway?” Through our count program we have been able to illustrate that the number is higher than many decision makers expect — even if we don’t know how many there are. I raised that very issue at a recent meeting with PennDOT in the room, in the hopes of finding a standard or metric that would be acceptable to local decision makers. I’ll keep you all posted on that.
Erok’s example about counting swimmers to justify bridges is a good one. However, we can and do do better, through the sort of analagous routes projections described by Edmonds. And we do that as well. We also use data from a wide variety of sources to justify demand for ped-bike accomodation.
That said, the most powerful weapon is PennDOT’s own ped-bike checklist. They are required to fill one out for any major project. One of the reasons we wanted them to do a presentation to the SPC ped-bike committee late last year was to be certain that they had completed the survey form and that it had demonstrated that the roadway was used by pedestrians and bicyclists. They got that message loud and clear. And, to PennDOT’s great credit, they brought some heavy hitters to the meeting. These top level folks heard the message for themselves. We need ped-bike accommodation on West Carson Street.
It’s unfortunate, but not entirely unprecedented, that we find ourselves in a position to have to REMIND PennDOT that this is an important corridor for pedestrians and cyclists. That is what we will have a chance to do tomorrow.
It’s an open house style meeting. You can arrive any time during the 2 hour meeting window. There will be displays, and you can ask questions about the project as it currently stands. You can make comments. At most meetings you have the opportunity to provide written comments. You do not have to be there for the entire 2 hours.
What is most helpful in meetings like this is not the “idealistic” comment of your dreams of a city where every street includes a separated cycle track, etc. What is most helpful is your comments on how you might have been discouraged from using West Carson because of its condition; or how you might use it once it is made bike friendly. Tell them where you want to get to, but really can’t (safely) now. Tell them your personal stories. If you don’t have a story as relates directly to West Carson Street, share your story about some of the similar routes that Edmonds has mentioned…what you thought of the new cycle tracks on Route 837, and how you think they will be received by the cycling community (in terms of new users), or your experiences on using the Millvale trail to commute in to town(or any trail or commuter route) and how you’ve seen cycling activity increase in recent years. If you can tie it to a recent construction effort, so much the better. (PennDOT will be much more interested in cycling for transportation than cyling for recreation)
Among the things I intend to share is how on Monday, as I was coming down McClure Street to Beaver Avenue, another cyclist caught up with me (Hi, Rob!), and we rode into town together. At one point, I looked up, and saw two more cyclists just a couple blocks ahead of us. Four cyclists on Beaver Avenue, within a two block stretch as pretty remarkable to me, and I ride that route a lot. To folks like PennDOT, who don’t notice cyclists in the same way I do, and who are not there during commuting hours, it might be eye opening. And this was on the corridor immediately across the Ohio River from their project area on West Carson Street.
Let’s be their eyes and for this meeting, and at other upcoming opportunities along other important corridors. Maybe they’ll show their appreciation by retaining ped-bike design elements along key commuting corridors.
I’ll be there tomorrow. I hope to see many others as well. (sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox now…)
Agreed – that soapbox answered all of my questions for how this will work, and how I can help when I’m there.
I have the bike with me today. I plan to bring it to the meeting. I’m hoping that having a helmet in my hand as I talk with them, while it’s snowing outside, will give me some “cred”, even if I do use a bus for the greater part of the trip.
I did a partial ride in and will be riding to the meeting as well. Fugly day.
Anyone planning on busing there: The 31 gets you right to the place, but the 26, 27, and 29 get you a block away, up on Steuben.
Getting back is just the reverse. The 31 stops on S. Main at Sanctus, with trips at 5:17, 5:32, 5:47; then hourly thereafter: 6:48, 7:48, 8:48, 9:48; due into town top of the hour on those last few, 12-13 minutes otherwise.
Up on Steuben, inbound trips at 5:32, 6:22, 7:24, 8:24, 9:24 on the 26 Chartiers; 5:22, 5:54, 6:54, 7:54, 8:54, 9:54 on the 27 Fairywood; and a single inbound trip about 6:35 on the 29 Robinson.
Sounds like they’re dead set on having that middle turn lane. If they could do away with that, and use a turnaround at Stanhope, then we could avoid the sharrow idea.
Sharrows on a posted-35-and-everyone-goes-50-plus street sounds like a really bad idea.
After the meeting, I pondered the notion of ONLY replacing the crumbling viaduct (where West Carson crosses Chartiers Creek, near the West End Circle) and leaving everything else untouched. I don’t think there’s either the money or the political will to do the right thing.
To summarize, the project design is terrible. It is a thoughtless, rote regurgitation of outdated traffic design thinking with the least possible effort given to reducing traffic speeds, increasing vehicular safety, and increasing pedestrian and bicycle friendliness. The consultants seem to be completely uninterested in any progressive traffic solutions in this enormously important corridor. Based on what I saw I wouldn’t hire these consultants to design my driveway. Not to mention the fact that the public review process seems to have been incredibly shortchanged. The brakes need to be thrown on this thing immediately.
I messed up the least/greatest statement on #4 but I think they’ll get the idea.
The lack of thought toward slowing traffic is mind-boggling when you look at the number of fatalities on this stretch of road.
As I mentioned to everyone I met at the meeting, you cannot rely on enforcement in an area where there isn’t even a shoulder for a car to be pulled over, or for a cop to sit and clock.
The stretch between the Corliss Tunnel and West End Circle is designed like a tunnel: Big wall, traffic lanes, small wall. It’s impossible to get clocked for speeding there – and drivers know it and push the pedal down accordingly.
Even with the new design, I would never put my bike on this stretch of road. I’d rather go around on the hills.
@pinky: love your point about lack of shoulders/law enforcement.
I would only edit one thing from your post however: it’s more like a chute from Corliss to WEC. You pop in one end and shoot out the other.
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