West Carson outbound to close July 29th
“A $39 million construction project will close outbound West Carson Street from the West End Bridge to McKees Rocks starting July 29, PennDOT announced.
The closure will be in effect around the clock until late August 2015.”
Is this the crappy plan with sharrows or is there still hope that something safer can still be done?
Pretty sure it’s going to be one lane in one lane out w/center turn lane and crappy sharrows.
Many people tried many different avenues to get something different but trying to change Penndot’s course is like talking to a fucking rock. At best.
And remember, the entire project is unnecessary. The only thing they really have to do is fix one breaking bridge under the West End Circle. This has Oh-Goody-We-Get-To-Spend-Oodles-Of-Money-What-All-Can-We-Spend-It-On written all over it. In other words, the first and largest mistake was scope creep. The second largest was to continue with contractors who think “inside the box” when an “outside the box” idea would have worked better.
Just emailed Senator Fontana and Amie Downs from Fitzgerald’s office – they replied to my original email writing spree.
It’s crap that we’ve been reaching out to PennDOT for 18 months and they’ve budged 0%. Is that when we all went to the meeting in West End when I was on crutches – not last winter but the one before?
Anyway. Here’s the text of my email replying back to Fontana’s original response:
I’m following up with you on the proposed bike route. I assume that the start of work means that PennDOT is going forward, despite the fact that they’ve ignored public input on the plan.
Can your office confirm – is it a done deal? And if so, how do we handle a public department that disregards public input and outreach?
Also I’m assuming this public meeting in Hays on the 24th is going to be a bunch of bitchy drivers disgruntled over the detour routing. I really doubt there’s room for the actual plan to change now.
Someone tell me I’m wrong, please.
I’m sure that if they’re starting construction this month there’s no way things are going to change. Contracts have been let, plans were finalized long ago. I remember from the Greenfield bridge planning meeting it sounded like these things get set in stone about a year before construction actually begins. And after they do the construction it will be really hard (as in taking decades) before anyone will be willing to revisit the issue. Damn.
The only possibility is that after construction is done, enough cyclists use the road, taking the lane as directed by the sharrows, to change its character. But that would take a lot of pretty fearless cyclists.
jonawebb wrote:The only possibility is that after construction is done, enough cyclists use the road, taking the lane as directed by the sharrows, to change its character.
Maybe we need to start organizing that.
It’s hideous that a whole section of the city doesn’t have safe bicycle access.
This is what I sent to Dan Cessna at PennDOT back in May:
About the proposed West Carson Street rebuild: Having attended the December 7, 2011, presentation in the West End and talked to project engineers, then reviewed both the preliminary plans in March 2012 and the final plans, I have but one thing to say on the project:
As I understand it, the motivating concern on the project is a failing bridge over Chartiers Creek. In short, I think you should replace the bridge and do nothing else. What I do not want to happen is to spend $20 million on a rebuild that does not work, and then not be able to do anything to reverse the error for 20 years because “we just worked on that.” In other words, leave West Carson in its broken condition until an acceptable project plan is developed. This is not it.
I suppose I must explain my conclusions. First, I am aware that this stretch of West Carson, between the West End Circle and McKees Rocks, has not seen any significant work since the trolleys and the Point Bridge were pulled out in the 1950s. However, as a regular user in several modes – driver, motorcyclist, transit user (daily trips to Robinson and Moon on the busway), bicyclist and pedestrian – I can state unequivocally that the new design is a waste of money. Aside from new pavement and drainage, there is nothing to make the road any safer for anyone. It will remain an unenforceable, cars-only speedway.
As a cyclist, I am hoping to be able to bike as easily and comfortably to McKees Rocks as I can now do to Millvale. That cannot happen in this design. Sharrows do not work at 35 mph, traffic speeds on West Carson routinely exceed 50, and will continue to. That is a deadly combination. Do not do it.
Look at The Waterfront in Homestead. That design works there and would work here. Put a sidewalk and a bi-directional bike lane on one side (the river side), and two traffic lanes. That’s all you need, except for the junction at the West Busway and at Corliss Street, where I agree you need a left turn lane. Everyplace else from Stanhope to the West End Bridge, that turn lane is completely unnecessary. You far more need to provide the future constant stream of cyclists and pedestrians a safe place to move, than a turn lane anywhere other than those two spots.
Again, if you cannot consider doing the above, do nothing but fix the broken Chartiers Creek bridge.
Thank you for your consideration.
Stuart M. Strickland
This is what he sent back a couple of weeks later:
RE: Allegheny County
S.R. 0051, Section A63
West Carson Viaduct Project
Dear Mr. Strickland:
Thank you for your email of May 30, 2013, regarding the S.R. 51, West Carson Viaduct project. The District understands your concerns and has designed substantial improvements into the project to address them.
This project was initiated to rehabilitate the structurally deficient West Carson Street Viaduct that carries a portion of the northbound travel lanes. Currently, the poor condition of that structure has caused the Department to restrict traffic in the northbound direction. In addition the sidewalk has been closed for years due to its deteriorated state.
As the project advanced through the design stages, we saw an opportunity to enhance the pedestrian facilities, as well as bicyclist accommodations throughout the corridor. By means of a “Road Diet”, reducing the number of through lanes to just one in each direction, we were able to develop a “Complete Streets” project that not only accommodates all modes of travel, but does so safely. Through this reallocation of space, we are able to incorporate a 5 foot sidewalk through the length of the corridor, include a 10 foot wide turn lane for motorists making left turns into side streets and driveways and also obtain the additional width required for a 14 foot wide shared use lane in both directions to accommodate both vehicular and cyclist traffic.
Reviewing the latest five-year crash data revealed a significant number of vehicle crashes through this corridor. These crashes were predominantly rear-end, angle and head-on sideswipe accidents. After reviewing that data, it was determined the only practical way to mitigate those accidents was to include a center turn lane from the Port Authority Busway to Stanhope Street. The inclusion of the center turn lane will mitigate these accidents by providing a buffer for turning traffic.
Also, when reviewing the crash data, there fortunately was no record of any bicycle or pedestrian accidents throughout this corridor. Nonetheless, we believe it is imperative to enhance safety for these modes also. The mitigation of the vehicular accidents will improve safety of the corridor for everyone. We will construct a new 5-foot concrete sidewalk the entire length of the project for pedestrian use. We plan to provide bike sharrows and “Share the Road” signs to alert the motorists of bicyclists. In addition, highway lighting will be constructed along the entire length of the project which will improve nighttime visibility of the pedestrians and bicyclists.
Additionally, yesterday we met with various stakeholders and elected officials and reviewed all details of this project — it is already bid and going to construction in about 6 weeks. We agreed to investigate the addition of electronic speed devices and possibly enhanced crosswalks at intersections to improve visibility for pedestrians and cyclists.
We appreciate your interest in the transportation system and your specific concerns on this project. Our main objective is to create safe and accessible highways for all modes of transportation, within budget, and we believe this project best meets those requirements. If you have any questions, please contact Guy Rettura, P.E., Project Manager at (412) 429-3787 or Cheryl Moon-Sirianni, P.E., Assistant District Executive, Design Division, at (412) 429-5005.
PENNDOT District 11
H. Daniel Cessna, P.E.
It’s amazing how painting pictures of bicycles on a street makes it complete. I had no idea it was so easy.
ignorance is bliss… that might as well have been a copy/paste response generated by a computer.
Really solid letter Stuart. Thanks for doing the research even if it didn’t turn out as we’d liked.
Both officials got back to me. Both have the exact attitude of “We think it’s good enough.” I would love to take both on a ride down that road with me.
I emailed one back but am disheartened by the second response with the same attitude. Sigh.
This whole project is a many-layered parfait of failure, from complete lack of vision for what it could be from the powers that be, to the failure of PennDot to grasp what measures will actually improve life safety in the corridor, to the failure of the same powers to question or challenge PennDot to do better, or even diverge from their auto-centric bias in the least.
Can we get our hands on some accurate speed monitoring equipment? I would love to get full-motion video of cars, both approaching (for speed determination) and retreating (for license plate), and just keep feeding whoever has jurisdiction there with data. While we cannot arrest anyone, we can certainly establish a constant source of vehicle velocity info in that stretch, and if certain cars routinely show up as >Limit+10, that would be very handy info for any LEO.
StuInMcCandless wrote:Can we get our hands on some accurate speed monitoring equipment?
Good idea. I’d also be curious if it’s possible to start up a project with one of the colleges… there must be an urban studies department that needs something to do. I honestly think we need some sort of counter-proposal, not just criticism, to gain any traction. The problem, as I see it is that there are not multiple parties making proposals, and the winner is the status-quo because of this. Right off the bat, I get the feeling that PennDot is trying to justify the plan as somehow having a BikePgh seal of approval by stating that the plan is compatible with the “complete streets” philosophy. The problem is, it really is not.
It’s probably too late to fix this, but that doesn’t mean the appropriate seeds can’t be planted. They are going off the data they have in regards to cars, bicycles, etc. So, the obvious solution is to create some new data sets to look at the problems being ignored.
I think a great way to illustrate this would be to create a map, a cartoony one, showing the major roads in and out of pgh that are bike friendly. A proper illustration would help to get the point across that one corridor that would see major use is being completely ignored. On a similar note, if I move back, I might dress up as the Batman character Bane and hang out along that stretch with signs suggesting that I’ve successfully cut off Pittsburgh from the West… something to raise awareness and drive the point home. Sadly, I think it’s going to take a lot more than just writing letters.
@stu, they did say they’ll be using speed monitoring equipment of their own. Are you assuming they won’t actually do this? And is there any reason to focus on West Carson rather than the many other streets where there is routine speeding? At least that way we don’t have to wait a couple years to try it out.
One thing just occurred to me — during at least part of the two years the road will be closed, I bet we’ll be able to get through on bikes. So for at least that time, we’ll have a car-free route west.
jonawebb wrote:One thing just occurred to me — during at least part of the two years the road will be closed, I bet we’ll be able to get through on bikes. So for at least that time, we’ll have a car-free route west.
I like that.
Maybe when they start construction, we can find ways to hinder completion. Environmental laws and such?
StuInMcCandless wrote:Also, when reviewing the crash data, there fortunately was no record of any bicycle or pedestrian accidents throughout this corridor.
And I reviewed the data for bicycle accidents in the Fort Pitt Tunnels. Fortunately, there were none. So that means it is safe to ride a bicycle there.
pinky wrote:Both officials got back to me. Both have the exact attitude of “We think it’s good enough.” I would love to take both on a ride down that road with me.
I emailed one back but am disheartened by the second response with the same attitude. Sigh.
We should request two police squad cars on a constant duty on both ends of W.Carson. And a button. As soon as a button is engaged police officer should turn lights on and follow a cyclist (the one requested assistance) from one end to another with speed of the cyclists. another car should start moving immediately in an opposite direction. We call it police-bicycle W.Carson safety elevator.
StuInMcCandless wrote:Can we get our hands on some accurate speed monitoring equipment? I would love to get full-motion video of cars, both approaching (for speed determination) and retreating (for license plate), and just keep feeding whoever has jurisdiction there with data. While we cannot arrest anyone, we can certainly establish a constant source of vehicle velocity info in that stretch, and if certain cars routinely show up as >Limit+10, that would be very handy info for any LEO.
60 fps camera (better two — one with wide angle, the another one with good optics) and two white lines at know distance will give you pretty good idea of a car speed.
I like the idea of transforming a closed West Carson into a bike boulevard for 18 months. They can’t have the whole street a hole in the ground for that entire length of time. Moving pinch points, yes. Probably one big hole in the ground while they replace the broken bridge. I’m guessing they will have that replaced and the road open at least to the busway entrance first.
Port Authority will likely have a detour announcement up pretty soon, which will give us a better bead on what PennDOT’s official plans are. I’ll post it when I see it.
In the meantime, chances are pretty good we will be able to use bits and pieces of the road in some manner or other.
Just imagine if there was enough brainpower walking around loose to produce an official looking set of construction documents, tap into the Penndot ecms project site, replace the contractors documents with an “alternate” design, and get the thing built. That would make a good story. Muwaha, muwahahaha…
I hate to say it, but we may have to concede that we won’t win the West Carson Street debate with PennDOT at this point. But, that’s doesn’t mean the discussion is over. Theresa Kail Smith has a meeting to discuss the issue of West Carson Street coming up (I am not sure a formal date has been set for that meeting yet). I think other communities/elected officials are also reaching out to PennDOT.
Going forward, I think two things have to happen. One is to make very clear to PennDOT which roads need to be improved for pedestrians and cyclists. A broadbrush approach of “all of them” just won’t cut it. We need specific recommendations. THEN, we need to match those recommendations with roadways that PennDOT is already planning to work on. AND those needs/project matchups have to happen EARLY enough in the process to be able to influence design. We thought we had done that with the West Carson Street project, but PennDOT found new “safety data” that supported the center turning lane, which did away with any serious bike accommodation. Bird dogging the design is something I have not yet figured out.
The best option for starting this “project staging identification process” is coming up, as the region prepares the next Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP. This identifies what PennDOT will be funding, and for what phases, over the next four years. That’s considered the “short term” for purposes of transportation funding. The trick is that projects are typically “phased” to ensure that money is allocated only as it is needed. So, only a very small number of the projects on the TIP will be at the stage where design can be influenced.
Unfortunately, some project funding is simply allocated as a “line item” to be drawn down on as a specific project need arises. The mandatory ped/bike checklist is supposed to flag any and all projects that in which a ped/bike element is “warranted” but it doesn’t seem like that process works as well as it might, given the West Carson Street scenario. So, what needs to be done is to work with PennDOT to identify WHEN projects are at the stage where design can be implemented, and when funding is likely to be available, so that we can pair those two variables with those locations at which ped/bike inclusion is deemed important.
SPC has proposed that a discussion of that sort be conducted at the next meeting of the SPC Ped-Bike Advisory Committee, which is scheduled for early-mid August. We are awaiting a response from PennDOT on that proposal.
In the meantime, keep your ears open for opportunities for public comment, on this and other projects. I will try to post them here as I learn of them.
Oh, and as a warning, the closure of West Carson Street will make Route 65 and parallel routes along the north shore of the Ohio more congested, as traffic in one direction is re-routed from Route 51 to Route 65 between the McKees Rocks and the West End Bridges. Ride smart through that Beaver/McClure/Brighton Road area in coming months. Drivers are almost certainly going to be looking for detours to the detours.
What really fries my balls about PennDOT is that they keep having these incredible, once-in-a-generation opportunities to do something to improve Pittsburgh’s infrastructure, and they keep ignoring Pittsburgh’s needs. The same thing happened with the Boulevard of the Allies reconstruction — that was a perfect opportunity to connect West Oakland and Downtown with bicycle access, and they made it impossible. There’s no space to add a bike path using that route. And I know people were asking them at the time to make provisions for bicycles, and they ignored them.
It’s not just bicycles; they really don’t want to listen to local communities needs. The just want to take a civil engineer, automobile-oriented view of things and do the things they want to do. Sure, they may hold public hearings, but only in order to satisfy the legal requirements to have them. There’s no effort whatsoever to respond.
What can we do to change PennDOT’s leadership so they consider the needs of other road users?
What can we do to change PennDOT’s leadership so they consider the needs of other road users?
Probably start by talking with the PA Secretary of Transportation?
Yeah, “Barry Schoch, P.E., was nominated by Governor Tom Corbett to be Secretary of Transportation in January 2011….Schoch has 28 years’ experience in the engineering field and has either managed or played a key role in many of the pending or completed transportation projects in Pennsylvania over that time…For the past 15 years, Schoch has worked for McCormick, Taylor & Associates and most recently was vice president and manager of its Harrisburg office transportation department. His portfolio ran the gamut from concept planning to finance strategies to project designs. His projects included the Mon-Fayette Expressway in Southwest Pennsylvania;………….”
Step 0.1, vote Corbutt out.
Ok, laughing while crying, direct from the PA State website…
“Governor Corbett’s Transportation Funding Plan
Governor Tom Corbett’s transportation plan will inject nearly $2 billion of additional funding into Pennsylvania’s transportation system. This investment in Pennsylvania’s future increases motorists’ safety, stimulates Pennsylvania’s commerce, creates jobs and provides reliable funding for our transportation needs without leaving the bill to our future generations.”
Increases MOTORISTS safety. That’s it. Eff everybody else, peds, bikers, stationary buildings, small woodland animals… Sweet.
True, doubtful. And we have a State “Transportation” committee comprised of automobile and trucking industry minions.
meanwhile… still waiting for Corbett to “free my beer.” The man is useless to anyone but the GOP.
To be fair, this administration was supportive of a transportation bill that would have given us the first dedicated funding for bike/ped infrastructure.
@Will, OK, but the issue here isn’t funding — there’s enough funding for the stuff we want, I think — but focus. PennDOT is using money they already have and spending it all on auto infrastructure instead of mixed-use. And not just in West Carson, but also Boulevard of the Allies, Penn… important streets for a city, forced to exclusive auto use, strangling improvements that would make the city more livable, and which the city recognizes and requests.
@jonawebb – actually, I think funding is a lot of the issue. The reason all this money gets spent on exclusively automobile infrastructure is because there are no dedicated bike/ped funds, and PennDOT is used to building car infrastructure, so that’s what they’ll continue to do. If, on the other hand, there were money which HAD to be spent on bike/ped, then I’m guessing they’ll happily find a way to spend it.
As I just pointed out in the thread about the Pine Twp work, a lot of the costs for highway and bridge work are for capacity enhancements and replacing items nowhere near end of life. The decisions that run up the costs are made well upstream of when any useful commentary can be made, assuming any useful commentary is sought, or given.
In rebuilding the couple of small bridges that take PA910 over Pine Creek, they somehow decided to widen the intersection and replace the traffic light. The light is only seven years old, and the corner was already rebuilt once in the last 15 years when they reshaped the approaching curve from the east. I’ll give them that that work was necessary then; that was a dangerous approach, and a signal was probably necessary. But they are taking the need to replace an ancient bridge — just like on West Carson — and adding a whole pile of other work to it, including signal replacements.
Yes, there is some work that has to be done; there always is some justifiable need for some work. But just like going to the store to buy milk and cereal and toilet paper, and end up dropping $50, what starts off as a small bridge project becomes a seven- or eight-figure road reconstruction. Multiply this sort of bloat times 500 such projects around the state per year, and then explain to me why we cannot fund transit or build bike infrastructure.
Also, under Gov. Ed Rendell, his PennDOT chief was Allen Biehler, who besides being a Pittsburgher, was also a transit guy, who resisted a lot of capacity enhancements.
I’m told that Barry Schoch “gets it” concerning bike infrastructure and transit, but he is at Corbett’s beck and call. So with Corbett being essentially a puppet for coal, gas, and petroleum interests, on the one side, and PennDOT’s long-standing inertia about being in the road business, on the other, we have a machine hell-bent on road building, and there’s only so much that a PennDOT chief can do.
Anyone who uses West Carson or the West End Bridge sidewalks: please see my most recent post on the 311 page. I could really use your help. Thanks!
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