Impending track closure near Panther Hollow Lake

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Vannevar
Participant
#

what I don’t understand is: if they want to stop people from crossing, why don’t they put up a major-league fence rather than leave it generally open and available and intermittently guarded?

I mean, I hear a lot of politicians want to build a fence along our southern border. One even wants a fence along the northern border. So fences must work, right?


Marko82
Participant
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True story:
I was attempting to cross the RR tracks from Becks Run over to the GAP trail earlier this summer but could hear and see a train approaching slowly from my left. I NEVER cross RR tracks if I detect a train no matter how far away it is, so I stood there waiting. I watched as the train kept getting slower and slower and then it finally came to a complete stop immediately in front of me. A guy climbs out of the cab and walks toward me so I ask kinda sheepishly if it’s safe & ok to cross. He says sure, because he would be there for a few minutes while he ran over to Pages to get some ice cream. I then crossed and went through the hole in the fence and continued on my way.

Moral of the story:
sometimes it benefits everyone to ‘look the other way’ every now and then.


Vannevar
Participant
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that is an excellent story and your conclusion is spot on.


jonawebb
Participant
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@V the tracks are on city land. The RR company that’s causing the problem doesn’t even own the tracks, they’re leasing from CSX. So they probably can’t put up a fence.


edmonds59
Participant
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TRAINS ARE ALLOWED TO STOP FOR ICE CREAM, WHAT?!?


Mick
Participant
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EVERYTHING STOPS FOR ICE CREAM!

(I think it’s part of the 4th law of thermodynamics.)


Jason-PGH
Member
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Went past the area today, checked out if there was actually any quasi-cops there. No signs, the path is wide and maintained, as well as a lack of a fence.

I actually went past there and saw a CitiParks Ranger going past there, she probably saw me cross over and didn’t even say a word to me.


Mick
Participant
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There are some sign posts there that I had never seen before.

On one side of the tracks the sign is completely ripped off and it is just a post. On the other side there is still half a sign there, bent and mutilated.

I honestly don’t kow who would do vandalismsm like that!

(And I’d like to know because I want to buy him or her a beer.)


jonawebb
Participant
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I think we scared those railroad guys away.


Mick
Participant
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When it was policed, there were two cop cars there.

To sustain that for a few years might be more expensive than building a bridge.

Just sayin’.


byogman
Member
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The greenfield bridge is closing, what, mid October? The way I look at it, there are then two reasonably direct ways home for me.

1: Through here, or up Panther Hollow Rd.

2: I imagine the same is true for a pretty decent number of people.

Yet the city is telling us not to use one, and the practical riding environment is telling us not to use the other.

Something’s gotta give.

I’d actually be more inclined to pursue the second option since it’s legal, usable in whatever weather on whatever bicycle, and more clearly presenting a pain point and a need to fix to the city… and right by the end of the cycletrack no-less. I’d be delighted to synch up return commutes if a few folks would like to make this a regular group ride.


gg
Member
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Crossed it today with no issues. Looked both ways and of course you can see for a very long way in each direction. The trails in Schenley are amazing right now. Smooth as glass. The pond looks great as well. I think the RR needs to just relax about that area. The line to sight is great. Someone just wants to be a jagoff and that.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Tonight’s Critical Mass ride is to do just that. Fifth to Halket to BlvdAllies to Panther Hollow Road to Greenfield Road-Bridge-‘hood-Ave.

Right lane. Left tire track. Ceding to nothing but a fire truck or equivalent. And giving zero fucks. That’s how we ride, that’s how you should ride when you have to be in the thick of aggressive traffic.


byogman
Member
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The spot I don’t like is going through the interchange as the road bends around toward the right and is somewhat blind. I haven’t followed a bicycle through here to specifically see how long the sight lines are for that, but when I do drive here I’m always going much slower than ambient traffic, because, I don’t know, I like to see where I’m going.

The fact that most don’t care mean that I’m a little wary by bike. What I’ve done a couple times, which is a little silly, but works kinda ok (drivers are unhappy to see you there, but they do see you), is act like I’m exiting to overlook, but then cut back to the left just after the end of the divider to get to the onramp back to Panther Hollow Rd. I guess if I had the chutzpah to ride in the left lane that would probably cure the line of sight issue as well ;)


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Maybe it’s because I’m used to it, dealing with an even sharper turn with even shorter sightlines at similar speeds, on Perrymont, is to get flat up against the yellow line as I’m in the curve (on an uphill, going about 7 mph), though on that one, I duck to the right shoulder as soon as I’m far enough past. But here, I would not do it precisely the same way. I think I would need to try it a few more times to figure out the best trajectory.


Marko82
Participant
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Apparently the RR construction down in SouthSide that has the trail temporarily detoured – is so they can install a brand new at-grade crossing for use within the cement plant.

View post on imgur.com


Benzo
Participant
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Saw this after the new crossing was installed, but before the shortcut was closed.

I’ve heard it was so damn difficult to get a new grade crossing, Then I saw this and wondered, why can’t we have this at panther hollow?


Benzo
Participant
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I’ve also seen an implementation of a rail crossing in Philadelphia similar to what they did at keystone metals on the GAP. Put in two chicanes to force people to slow down and look before crossing.

Materials needed: Asphalt for the crossing, Gates for the Chicanes and a little chainlink fence on either side.


MaryShaw
Member
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@benzo — The Keystone crossing on the GAP gives the argument against this solution. Keystone’s requirement was that the gates should force cyclists to dismount, or at least stop, and look before crossing. In practice, at least half of the people I see there slow down a little, but they seem to be navigating the chicane rather than looking for trucks.


Mikhail
Member
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And we had already complaints about Keystone chicane at this board. :)


Benzo
Participant
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Yeah, I kind of hate the chicane too, probably sucks for tandem riders and trailer pullers.

Just giving an example of what was done somewhere else that I’ve used. That chicane was much more narrow there, maybe even required a dismount.

I’d rather have a crossing here with a chicane than no crossing, but I’d rather have a crossing with no chicane than one with a chicane.


dfiler
Member
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I wonder if Schenely Park would authorize construction of a trail paralleling the east side of the tracks. This would fairly easily connect Panther Hollow lake with Boundary street at the southern end of Junction Hollow. It would eliminate the need to cross the tracks entirely because the tracks are elevated at the southern end of the hollow. Or at least it would do so for people coming to or from the jail trail.

Trail Pittsburgh, if given the go ahead, could get this done at no cost to the city.


Ahlir
Participant
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I was passing through this afternoon and decided to take a look at the crossing. The Constabulary was out in force:

Only later did it occur to me to ask them who exactly they were working for (ARR? CSX?). I think that would have been useful to know. Anyway, if you happen to wander by…

But they were nice enough to allow me to take some pics (provided I didn’t attempt a crossing!) Here’s one view:

It’s steeper than I remember it (from years ago) and maybe not the easiest to clamber over with a bike. Also, you’d think that the post would have some sort of No Trespassing sign. But they don’t.
Why? If you’re paying for two people to stand around, why not also buy a couple of signs? If only for when the constables aren’t around. It feels wrong, unless for some reason you can’t?

We chatted a bit about the whole thing. They were of the opinion that a bridge might be a good idea. The cost came up; we eventually sort of agreed that a crossing (with the barriers and the ringers) might be a viable solution. A crossing would be nice but I can see it would need to have the approaches properly graded (maybe not that big a deal). I also started to wonder just how much (ped/bike) traffic would happen. It’s an easy way to get to the lake, but coming down from the Nature Center is equally reasonable. Could this be part of a viable alternative for cyclists travelling between Sq Hill and points south? It would mean some additional work further up the hill.


helen s
Participant
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I believe the signposts visible in the picture used to have signs for a short period of time.

How exact would this grading have to be for pedestrians and cyclists walking or carrying their bikes?

Has anyone tried crossing the tracks on the northern side of the lake- possibly approaching from the end of the parking lot or even coming down from the recently developed CMU property under the bridge?


gg
Member
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The signs used to be there. People probably got pissed and ripped them down. Rightfully so in a way, for some a-hole RR to split a public park in half for no real reason. The line to sight is ridiculously long, not to mention the tracks are hardly EVER in use.

Grading? That is super easy. I know that business and it is a few dump trucks to get that squared away. This is a super easy job, but of course it will be made into a huge project for no reason. I may have crossed it a 100 times and it is no big deal. There is someone at the RR who is being an a-hole. This isn’t some high speed RR area or some area that is hard to see or hear a train. It is perfect for a crossing, but lets face it, whoever is doing this hates cyclists and is doing this for ego, not logic. Will the RR win? Maybe. I haven’t seen their hired guns down there yet. I have no beef with them. They are just hired to do a job of an a-hole.


Mikhail
Member
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for some a-hole RR to split a public park in half for no real reason.

This is not true. RR and tunnel have been opened in 1883
Land acquired for park (from Mary Schenley by city and by Edward Bigelow, Pittsburgh’s Director of Public Works) in 1889 and 1891.

The line to sight is ridiculously long, not to mention the tracks are hardly EVER in use.

At least 8 trains per day (including Amtrak’s Capitol Limited).

PS CSX owns them but it’s a lost money for them. They do not use them but have to maintain tracks, tunnel, etc since they cannot abandon them (track should be 5(?) years to be not in use to abandon them) and cannot sell them due to Amtrak usage (level of safety should be at certain level). So CSX is not interested in any crossing at all.

PPS My understanding is that CSX did not hire constables.


gg
Member
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8 f’n trains a day? WOW! This is stupid crap! The trains also travel so slow it is ridiculous. Not to mention you are talking about 1800’s. It is meaningless. There NEEDS to be a crossing. We subsidize RR’s as it is. They OWE US!


Mikhail
Member
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Meaningless is to provide a piece of info that is false.

Trains are slow because of crossing before the tunnel.

And “we subsidize” — could you provide more details?


gg
Member
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Meaningless is to provide a piece of info that is false.
Trains are slow because of crossing before the tunnel.
And “we subsidize” — could you provide more details?

1. Amtrak is running two of the eight trains a day on that track as mentioned earlier in this thread.

Since 1972 Amtrak has received more than $13 billion of federal subsidies. Is that good enough for you?

Trains are slow. You agree with me then.

Next subject?


Mikhail
Member
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You are mixing multiple subjects:

1. CSX owns tracks. And CSX is not subsidized. So I am not agree with you on this one.
2. AVR hired constables and is not subsidized. So I am not agree with you here either.
3. So only Amtrak is subsidized and it has two trains a day while AVR has at least six (notice words “at least” since there are days when it carries 10-15; AVR is so called “slow movers” — it operates not according to schedule but when cars are filled up and there are enough cars to form a train). So here I agree with you up to 25% or less.
4. Train are slow only because there is so called permanent “civil” speed restriction. This speed restriction is set by CSX as a part of negotiation with city. But it’s not that could not be renegotiated. If you watch grade crossing of CSX and another company tracks at Homestead you would notice that most trains come through with speed 25 mph (and they follow it along GAP towards the city) but there are days when you see a train that goes 40 mph. This is due to the fact that dispatcher has authority to override permanent speed restriction, cancel temporary speed restriction, etc. So slow train on tracks that we are discussing could turn into fast one in a click of the mouse in a dispatcher’s hand. So I am not 100% agree with you on this one either.

PS Just to eliminate confusion — I work for the company that creates dispatching software for RR companies. CSX is one of our clients. If you stop by I will gladly show you software, equipment, etc (possibly life feed from CSX dispatching software). If you are interested I can show other equipment that company provides to RRs.


Marko82
Participant
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As I mentioned somewhere above – the constables told me that they were hired by Allegheny Valley not CSX

Also, back this Spring an AVR train derailed just before it crossed 2nd Ave and was probably going less than 10 mph at the time. http://www.wpxi.com/news/news/local/breaking-train-derails-pittsburghs-hazelwood-neigh/nmGWx/

My guess is that AVR’s lawyers or insurance company or RR regulators are looking to limit any safety exposure the company may have. Having people (walking, biking, etc) near active tracks is a huge liability for them and they are actually trying to keep you safe by keeping you away.

Bitching on a cycling message board is not going to change a thing. If you dont like the closure – contact the company, contact your local and state representatives, etc. That’s how grownups change things.


jonawebb
Participant
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Some local people to contact: Kristin Saunders, Mayor Peduto, Corey O’Connor and Bruce Kraus (a grade-level crossing would connect Districts 3 and 5).


MaryShaw
Member
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Thanks, @marko82.

Another place to work within the system is the Oakland bike/ped committee, the OPDC Green Team. This group works to identify, guide and implement greening activities throughout Oakland. They had a hand in the new Oakland bike lanes. I made them aware of the RR crossing problem at the meeting last month.

They meet the third Thursday each month-all are welcome! The next meeting is day after tomorrow
Date: Thursday, Oct 15
Time: 6:00 pm
Location: 294 Semple Street, 15213

Contact greenteam@opdc.org or 412.621.7863 ext. 14 for more information.

More generally, having more cyclists at the public meetings where projects are discussed and permitted would be really, really helpful. Yes, it’s duller than bitching, but it gets more done.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Again, the only two distinctions between this crossing and Neville/Boundary are the latter’s superior legal status, and the former’s superior safety record. A train will never hit a motor vehicle at the lake crossing, and a cyclist is much less likely to get hurt at the lake crossing.


oaklandplanning
Member
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Thanks Mary:

MEETING UPDATE: The Green Team has a different meeting location this month. We’ll meet in South Oakland at 3250 Parkview Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213


Mikhail
Member
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I wonder if AVR is trying to create a pattern in behaviour just before the Greenfield Bridge closure.


Dberlin
Member
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Well, the first Monday after the bridge closed there are brand new signs on both sides of the track saying “Trespassers will be prosecuted”, yellow tape across the path coming from the Panther Hollow side, and it looked like somebody tried to drag a big branch to block the way. With the Greenfield bridge closed forever, how would one suggest I get from Squirrel Hill to the Jail Trail?


MaryShaw
Member
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From upper Sq Hill, down Schenley Drive or Circuit Rd, past Phipps, just across the bridge cut behind the Museum, go out Museum driveway, a block up Craig, right on a side street to Neville. Or, if you don’t mind riding on Forbes, down Forbes to Craig to side street to Neville.

From lower Sq Hill, Pocusset to Greenfield to the stop light at the Bartlett playground, then the running trail to Anderson playground (or the road, if you want to mix it up with all the traffic) and onto the cycle track to Phipps, then over to Craig as above. Going home you can go up Overlook, which is one way to the top of the hill (pick it up at Anderson playground by taking the culvert and turning left at the swimming pool). At the bridge party the Baker Engineering guys told me that the construction equipment would be staged in such a way that the bike route via Pocusset would stay open.

It’s not yet clear whether the traffic on the Blvd, Schenley Drive, and Forbes Ave will get better or worse as a result of the Greenfield Bridge closure.


helen s
Participant
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You can also make your way over to Bates, go down and either walk up the trail next to the bike trail, or turn right onto 2nd Ave (either sidewalk or road) to the little entrance.

Another option is cutting through CMU off of Forbes past the Gates Hillman building down the little winding path to ride under the Facilities Management bldg and down through Panther Hollow. Or cut down next to the S Oakland bike shop down in to Panther Hollow.

Sorry about lack of specific street names- I don’t know most of them.

Lots of options.


paulheckbert
Keymaster
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On a related note, here are seven routes from down on Boundary St to Frew St (near Phipps). Has anybody tried all of these? Which is fastest?

Alternatives to Hamerschlag Dr thru CMU
https://goo.gl/HPvyVD

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