Impending track closure near Panther Hollow Lake

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StuInMcCandless
Participant
#

I found the trail! Well, goat path. From Bridle Trail down to Boundary St. And ran video!

* 0:00 start at Panther Hollow Road & Greenfield-Bartlett corner
* 0:28 enter Bridle Trail
* 5:15 start down the goat path, walking the bike
* 6:39 first collision with a tree (pedal hooked the tree)
* 6:51 rear wheel slides off the trail
* 7:42 second pedal-tree collision
* 7:50 transition from forest to thick undergrowth
* 8:50 undergrowth gets hung up in my derailleur
* 9:34 ducking under branches
* 9:55 bridge visible
* 10:45 jersey barrier
* 10:56 out onto the street
* 11:08 you should recognize where you are now
* 11:30 I reverse direction

I cannot imagine trying to do this:
* while actually riding the bike
* in the dark
* during a storm
* uphill
* with snow cover

Let’s just say, the idea needs work.


gg
Member
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Stu, thanks for posting that. I can’t tell how steep that is from your video. What would it be like riding up through there? I think I will give it a try next week. Looks like it isn’t too hard to find. Thanks again. It isn’t really the route I would want to take, because I love riding by the pond and up through the beautiful park, but maybe that is what we will be forced to do. Sure does suck, if they put a fence that whole stretch just to be jerks!


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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You would need a serious mountain bike to get up that, and that assumes it’s dry. The rear wheel went over the side in one spot when it hadn’t rained in days.

If you do go, please take a machete and whack at some of that growth.

I don’t think this is a feasible alternative.

Also, I looked for a path off of Naylor Street, and found one, but it’s even less manageable than what I came down.

What was incredible was to start at the dead end on Saline and roll all the way to Big Jim’s. That would be such an awesome way to get into town. How about we drill a tunnel under the Parkway East from that dead end?

@paulheckbert – Any idea what that structure at the north end of the Ft Duq Bridge or the one at Calif/Marshall/Island/Beaver/Chateau cost? Do either of those climb 140 feet? I hate to sound crass, but it’s only money.

The question to ask is, what would it take to do the right thing?


gg
Member
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@stu. Depressing. Thanks for the information. I hope they don’t block people with that fence. Oh well, that is progress these days.


byogman
Member
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Thank you Stu for the video of the billy goat trail. I might hike it some time… without a bike.

I think MaryShaw got closest if indeed that old road bed is as described, easily recoverable as trail. The trouble as she noted is there’s convenient lake access from the south but not the north.

This is a huge loss given all the time and expense Pittsburgh parks conservancy is making so many spots to try and improve the watershed and make the lake a fit recreation spot again. If you’re not making friendly and convenient access from Oakland, much, much less of the crowd that could enjoy it otherwise.

Oh, and of course that trail, in addition to only serving part the the population served by existing infrastructure, is something new that would need to be built. Definitely not a given we’d get it. I’d really get on the horn. Just copy/pasting jonaweb’s suggestions there. I’ve followed them and if you value this connection, you should too.

“So, thinking about it, logical next steps would be to contact Kristin Saunders, Mayor Peduto, Corey O’Connor and Bruce Kraus (the grade-level crossing would connect Districts 3 and 5).”


jonawebb
Participant
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I went looking for Mary’s road and ended up on Stu’s trail. There’s some construction at the Boundary Street end that might have blocked off Mary’s road. If it’s there, it’s completely overgrown and impassable, I think.
Stu’s trail is blocked off by a stand of wild grape (I guess) at the Boundary Street end. Once you get past that it’s very steep, eroded, and rocky, but climbable. Too steep to ride, I think. Someone with a machete could do a lot of good here. It’s not a practical alternative to the railroad crossing at Panther Hollow Lake — way too steep.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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I think the trail I traversed is approximated by what’s labeled as “Bridle Junction Trail”, the light blue line on Paul’s map.

I twice looked for the “Naylor Trail” split off of the Bridle Trail, and did not find it.

There are two pieces of Naylor Street. One is the tenth of a mile or so that’s easily visible on the map, just north of the Parkway. But there is another snippet a bit west of that, at the end of Whitaker Street. The eastern end of that is paved for a bit and starts up the hill some. Still, the Parkway is in the way, and even at that, there is a serious elevation differential between Saline and Bridle.

That blue line running north off of the longer piece of Naylor looks like a drainage ditch. If someone ran a bulldozer into the woods 30 years ago, this may be the result of that. But I couldn’t even carry my bike through this, from the bottom, let alone try to ride anything — and this was less than 10 minutes after descending the goat trail.

*big sigh*

Let me up the ante even further. How about, in addition to a big honking switchback system, we also install an elevator alongside? So anyone in a motorized wheelchair could easily roll down Pocusset from Squirrel Hill, cross Greenfield, push a button, and get lowered 140 feet to the top of Saline Street.

Can’t cost more than $5 million for the whole shebang.

So we build that, and also build the elevated intersection above the fustercluck at the bottom of the hill that I described a year ago. There’s another easy $5 million. Yeah, I suppose ten mil is getting into more than you could raise at a neighborhood bake sale. And sure, why not, let’s toss in an easy crossing from Duck Hollow to Almonoville.

With that, though, you have a complete infrastructure system that gets everyone from East Liberty to Rankin to Duquesne (assuming you have a simple way across the river) an almost car-free, straight shot into downtown. Ten maybe $15 million. That’s in the neighborhood of what just one pair of projects at US19/PA228 is costing the taxpayers of Pennsylvania and other contributors.

Think big, people. We can do this.


paulheckbert
Moderator
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@stuinmccandless asked about cost of zigzag ramps. I put a partial reply in the out-of-town news thread.


Benzo
Participant
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Interesting project reference numbers from MovePgh Plan. How about suggesting these for the next capitol budget?

PB-239 Junction Hollow-Schenley Park Connector “Underpass below train tracks connection trail to park”

PB-238 Junction Hollow-3 Rivers Connection “New trail construction along west side of railroad traciks; would depend on reconstruction of Frazier Street Bridge to create space against western abuttment”

And While we’re at it:
PB-081 Glenwood Bridge Trail Link (To duck Hollow trail)

Source – MovePGH:
https://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=3e8c4bfac2a14932b95902a479839f18&extent=-80.0287,40.4262,-79.9596,40.4761


paulheckbert
Moderator
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Stu: right, Naylor Trail is a proposal, not a reality. On my map http://goo.gl/lT0LWO , click on the routes and read the text.


byogman
Member
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I think first thing’s first here. Let’s just get/keep a campaign moving to bug the right people about keeping the tracks from being fenced off, hopefully get an at grade crossing and save the money for other things, but at the very least, buy time. It will become quite apparent how important the route is next spring with the greenfield bridge is out and with that it would be much easier to justify the capital expenditure on a bridge/tunnel if that’s the only way forward.


jonawebb
Participant
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It would be a lot cheaper to open up a trail along the path of Mary’s road than either building a tunnel or bridge. And it would be easier than getting CSX to agree to an at-grade crossing, I suspect.
A rideable path along that route would be just as good, or better, as the rail crossing.


Marko82
Participant
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I think the piece of flat trail that Mary S. comments on above may actually be a remnant of the old original roadway. The road used to be located where the current track is and the RR tracks were to its left (as looking uphill towards Oakland) This can be seen in the 1882 map http://peoplemaps.esri.com/pittsburgh/

The road and tracks swapped positions around the turn of the century when they installed sewage pipes etc. I remember reading a good article on this land swap a few years ago, but I cant seen to find it just now.


byogman
Member
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I disagree with the notion that the probable location of an old road is good enough. First of all, because it’s very questionable in my mind that we’d get something built there at all… I’m not prepared to give up on anything we’ve got now transportation-wise until there’s a decent alternate actually built.

But even if it were is it as good? Not at all. A major part of the grand plan for Schenley park is controlling the run-off to improve the water quality and make the lake fit for recreation, which would be pretty incredible. But loosing this crossing you loose easy/convenient lake access from the north which could cut off many/most? of the target users who could easily enjoy this (eventual) park centerpiece.

It’s worth fighting for.


jonawebb
Participant
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Well, people wouldn’t really be cut off from the north, they’d just have to ride half a mile south to Boundary Street, then back up the other side of the tracks. Along a trail that would be shady, running along the side of a hill. As opposed to carrying their bikes across a sketchy rail crossing. And a lot of users of the rail crossing are heading for the EFT, which would be easier to access this way.


byogman
Member
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I call a mile detour pretty significant for something that should be a neighborhood asset.

Remember, most aren’t chugging along at 20 or even 15 and have no interest in doing so. Also, relying on trail is an impediment not just to cyclists with trail inappropriate bikes but also skateboarders/roller bladers.

And the comparison should be made not with current state, but with normal at grade crossings that you can ride over, as ultimately this would either be, or better, if the funding actually comes through when the traffic volume quadruples (per earlier prediction).

It’s quite possible we won’t get any of that by pressing officials to make a stink, but at least we get a little time and momentum which we badly need to press for the trail MaryShaw suggested. It won’t happen by itself. As is, it would be very easy, and I think the most likely course, would be that this whole routing shuts down, and that’s absolutely unacceptable.


jonawebb
Participant
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No question, an official grade-level crossing would be awesome. But if that does not happen, I think a new trail along the route Mary found would be an acceptable alternative to the current crossing. It has advantages and disadvantages, but I think on the whole it’s better than the existing crossing.


paulheckbert
Moderator
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I crossed the RR tracks at Panther Hollow Lake today and saw nobody counting or observing me.


Mick
Participant
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I crossed the RR tracks at Panther Hollow Lake today and saw nobody counting or observing me.

Ninja!


Marko82
Participant
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This is why the RR’s have legitimate concerns.

Train strikes, kills 15-year-old bicyclist
http://www.sanduskyregister.com/news/fire-ems/9304636

Stop. Look. Listen. (be patient!)


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Darwin award. At a legal, marked crossing with lowered, properly functioning gates. This has nothing really to do with what we’re after.


Marko82
Participant
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No stu, someone getting killed on the tracks has everything to do with getting a legitimate Schenley Park at-grade crossing. The fact that people cannot be trusted to obey VERY OBVIOUS safety devices is why the feds and the RR’s dont want to install any new at-grade crossings.

While I feel bad for the kid that was killed, this lack of respect for RR safety measures is why they want to keep people away from RR tracks entirely. And from their perspective, I dont blame them.

I illegally cross the tracks at the bottom of Becks Run all the time, but if I can see a train (even a half mile or more away) I will wait far back from the track and raise my hand so the engineer knows that I see them and I am NOT going to try to “beat the train” and cross in front of them. Occasionally the engineer will soft toot a thank you to me as they pass because people near the tracks are a literal nightmare for them.


byogman
Member
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It’s sad, but was also very clearly preventable, and in a nation of 300 million plus, this anecdote doesn’t say anything useful about whether or not at grade railroad crossings are a good or bad idea. Especially for non-motorized traffic, which, I think for reasons alluded to earlier (degree of obviousness / emotional and physical attachment ), is much less likely to have a safety issue than motorized traffic would.


gg
Member
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I agree with Stu. You can’t idiot proof everyone. That teenager went around the gates, which are there to prevent people from crossing. What more can a RR do to protect us than gates? I was taught as a young kid to NEVER cross when one train passes until you can clearly see the other set of tracks because another train may be coming in the other direction. You can’t prevent every single death. There are countless crossings that have no gates in our region. The trains sound those insanely loud horns and people STILL get hit. There are always going to be deaths on roadways, train crossings, showers, golf courses and more.

I would love to explore that area a little more this week. Having a health issue that makes riding longer distance a problem, but it is healing. Suks getting old. Anyway, if there is a route that starts around Big Jims somewhere and would end up by that beautiful lake without crossing the tracks, that would be wonderful. I don’t know how to access it, but will have a look this week with the ideas posted on this board. Thanks for those ideas by the way.


jonawebb
Participant
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What more can the RR company do than gates? They can fence the crossing off. Which they may do, to the PH crossing.


Mikhail
Member
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It’s sad, but was also very clearly preventable, and in a nation of 300 million plus, this anecdote doesn’t say anything useful about whether or not at grade railroad crossings are a good or bad idea.

No, it’s not preventable in terms of grade rr x-ngs. In the nation of 300+ million there is always enough idiots — it’s not just all of them got killed. And in nation of 300+ millions there are enough lowers who will try to get money from rr company and government. And it even not counting business disruption and rr loses because of it.

And I did not counted drunk people as idiots…


byogman
Member
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Preventable by the individual who got hit. Not preventable in a nation of 300+ million. We’re saying the same thing. As for the business case, clearly a fence is cheaper and more (though by no means completely) idiot proof. Just talking about broader public interest and saying our local officials should make an effort to keep it open for that reason.


jonawebb
Participant
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I went by there this weekend, looking at it from the Panther Hollow lake end, and there’s something like a hint of an old road there. At least there’s a kind of flat area starting near the base of the hill, and you can see how there could have been a road there once. But it may be that the the Charles Anderson bridge cuts off that route. Looking at it from the Junction Hollow trail, I didn’t think there’s enough clearance between the bridge supports and the tracks.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Might be about five years ago, a woman got killed by a train in Derry, Westmoreland County. Not at a crossing, the closest of which was a quarter mile away, but at a spot on a direct path between her residence and a store. That’s probably the better comparison to this.

Is this a how-do-you-make-things-safe discussion? Or rather is it a how-do-you-reduce-illegality-never-mind-whether-it’s-safe-because-it’s-never-safe-even-where-it’s-legal sort of discussion?


Jacob McCrea
Participant
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If I recall the P-G article correctly (it was hard to forget), that woman managed to kill not only herself, but also her toddler, which she was trying to drag across the tracks in a stroller. I also recall that before she and her child were hit, a police officer who happened to see them screamed at them not to try to cross the tracks in front of the train, but she proceeded despite the officer’s warning (assuredly among other sounds that should have counseled her to stay put). The railroad still got sued for negligence. I’m not sure what the incident says about the Panther Hollow crossing, or any other, for that matter.


edmonds59
Participant
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Damn. Sad about the toddler.


Pierce
Participant
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You guys are being pretty harsh on a 15 year old. There’s a safety video about railroad crossings from the 50’s that mentions the possibility of one train clearing and then getting hit by a train going in the opposite direction, so it’s not as if this is some new phenomenon that never happens.

I mean damn, kids really should know the ins and outs of crossing railroad tracks, how dare they not

As far as PH goes, I’ve been startled by the train by the parking lot area where that switchback area is by the trail. I was looking and listening and it still came up on me pretty fast. I think there’s less visibility at the actual PH crossing


byogman
Member
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That’s a sad story. And if the crossing stays unofficial then yes, the infrastructure will be wildly unsuitable for kids in strollers.

It shouldn’t stay that way and I don’t think will. But the routing matters a lot already and will matter vastly more with the impending shutdown of the greenfield bridge and then in the longer term with the cleanup efforts on the lake.

These two things make a strong case, from a public policy standpoint, that the requisite authorities at least need to apply for an at-grade crossing and/or do whatever else might prevent the railroad from blocking this off totally. Then, when traffic quadruples with the greenfield bridge out, we can see, if the railroad really, really digs in their heels against an at-grade crossing, if there’s enough push to prioritize something better.


Marko82
Participant
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My point is to mention that the RRs do dot want people anywhere near their tracks – whether legally with an at-grade crossing or illegally at some other point. And while I may not like them putting up fences, I totally understand their reason for doing so.

Also, any attempt to get them to put in a NEW crossing at PH is going to meet with extreme resistance from the RR, who can legitimately point to cases like the teenager above as an example of why it is not safe to put in even the most obvious gate-protected, lights blinking, bells dinging, train horn-blowing crossing.


dfiler
Member
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In Wilkinsburg, over a century ago there were a high number of people getting killed crossing the tracks each year. The solution was to raise the tracks and lower all of the surrounding buildings. Through streets and pedestrian tunnels were routed underneath. Just imagine how much effort that was!

Unfortunately, critical bicycle commuting routes are disappearing just when we were on the verge of tying together a viable, city-wide system. The jail trail used to offer connections to squirrel hill and regent square without having to travel busy city roads. With duck hollow fenced off and panther hollow probably fenced in the future, cyclists are needing to travel longer distances and on much busier roadways.

Is there a way to raise this with the city? That the railroad is blocking pedestrian travel in a historically unprecedented way? Granted the pedestrians are trespassing. But it is severing travel connections in a way that’s never been done before. We need another solution.

I’ll have to explore the southwest hillsides of Schenely park in the fall when there is greater visibility. With park authorization, a viable route could connect jail trail traffic up through Schenely Park. It would just have to pass under the tracks at the bottom of junction hollow. Ironically this would bypass all of the beautiful bike/ped infrastructure in junction hollow.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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I would argue that the RR should _want_ a cyclist-safe crossing. Certainly the existing legal Neville/Boundary crossing is one of the least safe crossings of a live track in the city. I can’t count how many cyclists wipe out there.

Coming down that hill on a wet day with a car on your butt is f’n scary.


MaryShaw
Member
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@stuinmccandless “I would argue that the RR should _want_ a cyclist-safe crossing. Certainly the existing legal Neville/Boundary crossing is one of the least safe crossings of a live track in the city. I can’t count how many cyclists wipe out there. Coming down that hill on a wet day with a car on your butt is f’n scary.”

Agreed. That’s why we should all be paying attention to the Planning Commission hearings on the CMU and Central Catholic building plans in areas bordering Neville St. So far this year we’ve gotten CMU to commit space for trail in their new parking lot downhill of the RR crossing, Central Catholic to agree to space for trail in the new construction near Fifth, and CMU to agree that the trail has priority when they’re dealing with that side of the Tepper project. This has happened because of consistent input from cyclists, especially cyclists at the Planning Commission hearings.

The solution to Neville is getting more space to share; it seems to be shaping up as a separated cycle track/path, possibly as far down at the parking lot at Joncaire. Once you get past Joncaire St the dead-end streets don’t seem to present any problems.


Steven
Participant
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When talking to the RR, it might make sense to present an at-grade crossing as merely a temporary one, until a proper grade-separated solution can be built (whatever that might be). That would also get the RR invested in finding a grade-separated solution.


paulheckbert
Moderator
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There are six level crossings of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad by the Great Allegheny Passage between Cumberland, Maryland and Foxburg. I was just there on Sunday. Below is crossing #3 near trail milepost 2 outside of Cumberland, Maryland. As you can see, there’s no gate at the crossing, but STOP is painted boldly on the asphalt on each side of the crossing. There is also no fence between the train tracks and the trail. The crossings work nicely.

map: https://goo.gl/I4VKYo


gg
Member
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This all could be a good thing or a bad thing I guess. If there was a crossing, you wouldn’t have to pick up your bike and walk across the tracks. If they put a fence up, you would have to figure out another route. I looked at Stu’s trail yesterday and it was so overgrown, I just didn’t deal with it. I was on my way to work, so I didn’t have unlimited time. It would be a shame if the RR split the park up in two and there was no access. I was trying to find more about PA law and RR crossings, but it seems RR’s really have the upper hand on this stuff. Even with river access, the RR seems to have a lot of power. That sort of makes me sick. They can prevent people from fishing the river? We want a crossing that connects the park, instead of a fence that splits the park in two. Will the RR even give a crap?

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