Opening abandoned section of Neville Street
Imagine getting off a bus with your bike at Centre Avenue and Neville Street in North Oakland and pedaling on a wooded trail to the Strip District — a five-minute trip, with no cars, a tree canopy and a view.
The article describes a set of projects. None seem to rise above the level of so-so homework from some random extension course. Sorry for the harsh.
Let’s look a bit more closely at the proposal that’s bike relevant, the extension of Neville as a bike path.
From Center Neville quickly drops down to the floor of the ravine. The original street appeared to have crossed the tracks at the bottom. And in fact there’s still a stretch of street called Neville along the road that goes down from next to the main Iron City complex. Bulding a connection from there to Polish Hill would involve serious investment; and I don’t see how you could avoid a significant climb in either direction. To be fair, there looks to be a possible path that connects along Croessus Way plan to the Herron Bridge. But that doesn’t seem to be what they’re talking about (since that would simply use Melwood as the approach).
If you look at an old city planning map (check out plate 27 on http://images.library.pitt.edu/g/geotopo/) you see that the Melwoods were meant to be a single continuous street. The squiggly part of Gold was some sort of temporary solution.
Going forward Gold could be kept for cars. But the Melwoods should be connected with a ped/bike structure, preserving its residential/ light-industrial character, At least to the south. (Ideally the bit connecting Melwood and Gold at Filmmakers would be closed and lights installed at Baum & Gold.)
On the 1937 version of plate 26, North Neville heads north below Baum, then seems to merge into the Pittsburgh Junction Railroad after the latter emerges from its tunnel. They overlap until around the point they pass under the Bloomfield bridge, when they separate again. I can’t tell if the road was built above the tracks or how it worked back then.
But the article says the trail Ms. Kramer proposed winds up in Polish Hill, and that she walked it. The old North Neville didn’t go to Polish Hill. So it sounds like the trail she found doesn’t correspond to at least the 1937 version of Neville.
It sounds like her version doesn’t drop down to the bottom of the ravine either, as Neville does, but hugs the hillside. So I’m not sure you can look at old maps to understand exactly where her proposed trail would go.
Her proposal might well be unworkable, or just an inferior alternative to something involving Gold Way or Melwood, but I think without knowing the actual route it’s a bit premature to discount it. (And bear in mind, this is in a newspaper article, so there’s a very good chance her actual proposal has been garbled.)
Yes, that was Sheet 26.
Neville starts pretty narrow at Center then spreads out to encompass the Junction RR tracks just past where they emerge from the tunnel. As far as I can tell they then both go under the Penna RR main line (street and track outlines are drawn dotted). Of course, we might be looking at one of those notional Pittsburgh streets. Then again, I took a look at the images in the same archive and found one of Neville, looking down from around Center (or maybe further in):
It pretty much descends all the way. The caption says “Atherton Avenue (Baum Boulevard) Bridge”. I never knew that.
How about the notion that there’s a path somewhere below Melwood? This shot of the bridge under construction makes that seem implausible. (I’m assuming that Gold/Melwood is up there somewhere.)
(This is the old Bloomfield Bridge. I had actually moved here before it was replaced; the deck elevation is pretty much the same.) The rail bed now also accommodates the busway.
So in sum, I would say that the Melwood connector is really the only practical solution at this time; anything below that would be too costly and would involve climbs that biker might prefer to avoid.
By the way, this collection of historical maps and images is really great, and it gives you some sense of how things have changed and how they’ve stayed the same. For example, a hundred years ago the city was already working seriously on effective pothole design!
The old Bloomfield Bridge was closed in 1978, and not rebuilt until 1988. I moved to Pittsburgh in 1982, and whenever I drove past one end or the other of the closed bridge, wondered what life would be like to be able to use it again. Now I cross it, or ride underneath it on Gold/Melwood, at least once a week.
I fail to see what any new connector would gain us that Gold/Melwood does not do now, and which wouldn’t require spending a seven-digit sum to make happen. I would sooner restore all the staircase streets and install lighting and runnels along a few of them, should that seven-digit sum come into being. And if an eight-digit sum happened along to rebuild a couple of inclines, they too would help.
There is a path from the dead end of Melwood.
I have heard (maybe here?) that there is plenty of room on the bus lane between twosn and the junction with the neville street spur, but no space at all from there. It’s very narrow up to Center, for instance.
If there could be a path down from there to the busway, it could be a great way downtown.
Also, there is a short alley-type Neville street extention north of Center and just west of the Busway entrance and railroad tracks there.
I’ve walked down into the valley there, but it was decades ago, maybe even before the busway opened, I don’t recall.
Google doesn’t really show it, but there is (was?) a set of rowhouses back there. There might also be a way to extend Neville. It’s been years since I was down taht alley way, google shows the alley itself (“Neville Street”) to be covered with grass in a way that seems unlikely if the rowhouses were still there.
Google shows a “planned bike trail” from there to the strip district. Maybe they know something I don’t! That would be wonderful!
North Neville rapidly descends the hill and then follows the Junction RR; the two of them go under the Penna RR mainline and continue along the floor of the ravine. (Certainly at some point in the past.) If you look at the elevation contours between Neville and Melwood you see what’s basically a cliff.
Looking at a 1923 map, the “proposed” trail seems to follow the alignment of Croesus Way which looks to be the alley behind the houses along Fleetwood (now Melwood), just past the bridge. A Melwood-Croesus connection would make sense, especially if it provides an easily climbable grade from the Strip to Oakland.
Presumably the “planned” bike trail is on Google Maps now because someone entered it based on Ms. Kramer’s proposal. Google Map Maker says it was added June 2 by a user named Jason, and Google approved it 17 hours ago. I think “proposed” might be a more accurate term than Google’s “planned”.
The 1937 map shows Croesus only extending west from around the Bloomfield Bridge. It doesn’t show a road where the proposed trail would be, for most of the stretch east of there. But if there’s a 1923 map that shows a road along more of the trail, that’s encouraging.
Google maps has been getting pretty unreliable in Pittsburgh recently. The Warhol bridge has been rendering as “planned” for the past few weeks. Someone also recently extended a section of Schenley park all the way to Houston, Texas. The correction is still stuck waiting for approval for the past few days.
The 1923 map has Croesus starting just west of the bridge, dropping down from Fleetwood with a right angle to the left, just behind the houses. A contemporary connection would either have to follow alongside Gold for a bit. Or do something a bit more extravagant, like a bike/ped bridge between the dead-end of Melwood and Croesus. I personally would like really that, (though I accept that funding is unlikely for the time being).
This shot shows the area in question: I’m not so sure about the alley being more than notional, but at least the grade looks workable.
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