Mon Wharf Switchback update from Riverlife
Hi BikePgh community,
As many of you know, last summer Riverlife announced a community campaign to raise the final money needed to build the Mon Wharf Switchback, a Downtown bike-ped ramp that will connect the Smithfield Street Bridge down to the Mon Wharf Landing and bring the Great Allegheny Passage directly into Point State Park. The community response was incredible, with over $7,700 donated by 130 individuals in just a matter of days. We’ve been busy all fall and winter working on the Switchback, and as stewards of this project we wanted to give you a candid update on its status.
Building connections to our rivers always requires innovation, and the process for the Switchback has taken longer than we expected. Last fall, estimates for materials came back much higher than anticipated due to the fluctuating cost of steel for such a sizable structure. The site itself—directly adjacent to busy Interstate 376, on a steep riverbank under a historic bridge —has proven to be a challenging location for staging construction, requiring meticulous planning as we only have one chance to execute the project.
In order to keep the Switchback within the original budget, we’re working with a team of engineers to look at alternative materials and determine design efficiencies. This productive process will allow us to build the highest quality and most affordable Switchback possible. Bidding for construction is still on track for 2014.
To all cyclists, trail users, downtown residents and Switchback enthusiasts: thank you for your support and patience. This is a community effort that will result in a huge community asset when complete, one that will serve millions of trail users and, we hope, last for generations. We’ll continue to keep you updated on our progress. For breaking news, check out http://www.riverlifepgh.org.
Riverlife Communications Director
We’re all very excited by what this connection would mean. The successful fundraising campaign was a temperature gadge of that.
However, our ability to contribute as individuals directly pales in comparison to the major donors or would be donors. Obviously we’re all hopeful the engineers can close as much of the funding gap as possible with more efficient design.
But to the extent a gap remains, to minimize the chance that this stalls, is there an appropriate means or forum in which to express what it would mean, perhaps in personalized terms? I believe once you get enough of those sorts of stories, that that may sway one or more deep pocketed foundations, corporate entities, etc..
I’ll just say for my part, the number of kid friendly destinations across the ft. duquesne pedestrian bridge (aviary, science center, children’s museum) makes this an easy one for me.
Thanks for all the work on this. Sounds like a complicated project only slightly harder than herding wild cats.
I think getting it done right the first time is certainly a vald goal. thank you for the update. We’ll look forward to hearing more when you’re able to report it.
Stephan, kudos to you and Riverlife.
Sidebar first: I think it was Riverlife that just very recently installed the new drainage on either side of the trail down by the RiverTech incubators, on the Baldwin Borough Trail? Very nicely done.
Is the meaning of the candid update: Riverlife expects bidding in 2014, but doesn’t expect a Switchback opening until at least 2015?
Thanks for the words of encouragement, everyone. Vannevar, to answer your question we were not responsible for the trail drainage improvements by RiverTech but applaud whoever was!
As for when to expect the Switchback project – we’ve learned the hard way that assigning timelines to big outdoor construction projects like this isn’t always advisable, as there are so many factors in the process that can change the schedule. I think many of our trail- and park-building partners would agree. Please know that while we’re not issuing a public timeline at this point, the Mon Wharf Switchback is a top priority at Riverlife and people are working long hours every day to get it designed, bid and build as quickly as possible. Again, we appreciate your patience and understanding.
Byogman and Srpit – thanks for your perspectives and I’m interested in collecting stories and testimonials that will speak to the demand for this project and create momentum whenever possible. Again, let me emphasize that the project is moving forward at full speed, but user testimonials always add more wind to the sails. I’ll post back here when we’re ready to spotlight those stories.
I can add a testimonial about how I definitely felt cheated by having to detour on streets when I set off for DC in September, so now I’m going to have to do the whole thing again.
More seriously, I certainly look forward to no longer having to give people (especially out-of-towners or people with kids in tow) sketchy directions about how to get to the Point from the trail or vice versa. I am not there *that* often but there always seems to be someone lost or confused.
Can’t wait, this will be awesome. Those wayfinding signs are great as well. The more the better!
I don’t know what the official word is, but I talked with someone involved with the project the other day. They’re being really aggressive, and I think he said they’re trying to get it out for bid in January.
also, the new signage is really excellent. I think that next spring there’ll be a reduction in transient cyclists stumped on the navigation.
Being aggressive with trying to get it started&finished or with answering your questions? I hope the former.
@rg with getting it started. I guess if it goes out for bid January it could start construction in 2015.
Or, the bids all come in too high. And it’s back to the drawing board. (This shouldn’t necessarily happen if the design process was on track…)
well this is good news. $250K grant
Awesome! No more awkward riding around the Grant St lights when heading to Point State Park!
Does anybody know if there’s a plan to install a (better) connection between the Mon Wharf and PSP? I know that you can get on the sidewalk there to access those areas but it’s kind of hidden and not set up for two-lane bike traffic. A short boardwalk would be nice…
I don’t know the details, but my understanding is that the connection to the Point is part of the plan as well. Don’t know if it will be worked on at the same time or not.
Greetings Bike PGH community from the Project Manager of the Switchback!
I have been working on the switchback for the last six months and am thrilled to share that we have a phenomenal team who has been mindful of design integrity as well as cost realities. Our design is 95% complete and we are going through the final stages of permitting for city, state and federal approval. In fact – we just received approval from the Art Commission!
The switchback has been an extremely complicated project – with multiple hurdles cleared along the way. We plan to go out to bid by the end of this year or early next.
The Mon Wharf/Point State Park Connector at the western end of the Mon Wharf is also under design – and this is managed by DCNR (PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources). We are hoping to sync our bid and construction timelines.
I would love to meet with anyone curious about the design or the process and would even propose a bike ride down to the site. Here is a link to a longer post – and specific to our recent grant!
Please feel free to ask any questions! Thanks!
All my best,
Thanks for the update!
Do you know if the connector the DCNR is building has whatever funding it needs? Or is that unknown until the construction bids come in?
I guess that one is being built and funded by the state, not by a private organization like Riverlife?
Holy Moley, Addy Smith-Reiman. that’s a wow set of Google results. Platinum rider on the National Bike Challenge. awesome.
Welcome to Pittsburgh, a few months late, and thank you for your efforts and for joining the forum!
I hope that after this project, Pittsburgh has enough other interesting challenges to keep you around for a while. (hint: connecting Jail Trail and Saline Street, etc)
Hope to see you on a Flock Ride (aka Pittsburgh Bike Party)
Hello again! Thanks for your responses!
There have been some e-mails ‘off line’ curious to see the designs – and I would love to invite anyone who is interested for a lunch ride and design share.
I propose Tuesday, November 4th at 11:45A. Let’s meet at Golden Triangle Bike Rental – they’re closed – but it’s a great/well marked location (the one by PNC). We’ll bike up the trail to Grant Street, cross along the flyway and then look down at the Switchback location. We will then head to Siam’s – a Thai restaurant located at 410 1st Ave. to review the designs. Rain or shine!
See you then!
Sorry, can’t. Double conflict already.
I do suggest that the city’s new bike-ped coordinator, Kristin Saunders, be personally invited.
Just a reminder that I am meeting up with some of you tomorrow, Tuesday, November 4th at 11:45A at Golden Triangle Bike Rental – (the one by PNC). We’ll bike up the trail to Grant Street, cross along the flyway and then look down at the Switchback location. We will then head to Siam’s – a Thai restaurant located at 410 1st Ave. to review the designs. It looks like it will be a gorgeous day tomorrow!
I have invited Kristin Saunders and she has agreed to come! See you tomorrow!
This was a really cool session and mega-thanks to Addy for arranging it. We got a briefing at Golden Triangle Bikes, went over to Smithfield St Bridge for point-look-ask-tell, then to a local eatery for discussion and document sharing.
It was very cool to hear details of backstory, how we got to today, where the next actions are – and also to hear folks from DCNR and other agencies talk about what they’re doing.
I really appreciate Abby’s initiative. Also, what a bike she’s riding – 1938 Raleigh Gazelle, all tricked out.
So, that’s Addy in the pic?
(Also, I assume that’s byogman. But for a moment I could swear that the guy on the left also had a kippah…)
Yes, that’s Addy herself. And BYogman.
and you’re right, there is a hint of a yarmulka on the other fellow,
but it’s just mussed-up hair. Although he rocks it.
Man sounds like I should have shown up just to see that bike. Special.
I heard at a Steel Valley Trail Council meeting that the Smithfield Bridge / Mon Wharf switchback project is being taken over by the City, from Riverlife. Has anyone else heard more on this?
Greetings Bike PGH message board community!
Re: Is the Smithfield Bridge / Mon Wharf switchback project is being taken over by the City, from Riverlife?
Riverlife is working with the city to put the Mon Wharf Switchback out to bid. This was recommended to us by PennDOT as the switchback crosses a number of municipally owned parcels – and the city will eventually own the structure when it’s complete.
We have engaged CDR McGuire to act as Project Management for the city and liaise with PennDOT and Riverlife. SAI Engineering submitted final designs to PennDOT about two months ago – and we are now in the final stretch – working out details related to construction, staging, scheduling, etc.
We have our first city, CDR MGuire and Riverlife meeting next week – after which – a more detailed timeline will be shared. We will keep you posted! Thanks!
Glad to hear of the progress. Can’t wait for this to be built. It’s going to provide a very useful connection between the point, downtown, the southside, and the eliza furnace trail.
…along with a truly stupendous number of complaints about why our city tax money is being wasted on these bicyclists when we really just need our potholes fixed.
PG says, construction to begin Spring 2016.
So exciting! This is one of the big missing links in Pittsburgh’s bike infrastructure.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic. Click here to login.