So here’s my plan:
1) Get Port Authority to change the rule. It’s a paperwork exercise. No studies or infrastructure or anything else needed.
2) Access from the east: From West Liberty Ave, use Hargrove St to the junkyard, go behind their building up onto the RR right-of-way just at the point of the used and unused tracks splitting. Use the unused R-O-W at least as far as Wabash. This will require easements of various sorts, I’m sure, and these won’t be easy to obtain, I am also sure, but physically it should not be too difficult. Lawyers, not gravel, will be the greater cost here.
3) Access from the west will be much harder, as there is a lot of distance involved, plus old infrastructure like RR grades and bridges are either missing or in such disrepair that they may as well be missing. I suspect that major work such as what was done along the trail between the 31st and 40th Street Bridges will be needed to stabilize the old RR bed for trail use down to the West End. We’re talking about several million dollars, I’m sure.
4) To access trails up into that part of Beechview adjacent to and above Brashear HS, I don’t know what all would be involved.
I posted some photos of the Seldom Seen Greenway from an “excursion” on 4/12/14 – https://www.facebook.com/safesouthhills
Thanks fultonco, I might scope this out when the weather warms up. I’m sure my cross bike would be fine sneaking through this.
@benzo – You will be good. There is a stream to cross, some steep and overgrown sections. Also, some private property on the other side of Brashear. Have fun !!
@steven said in another Wabash thread (referenced above)):
The 21’6″ roadway is supposed to be too narrow for two lanes of cars. It was built for trains.
I just went out with my tape measure. Perrymont Road is 21’6″ for two travel lanes, and handles 5,000 vehicles a day. With several blind curves, blind grades, busted pavement, eroding hillsides, and dozens of driveways and side streets accessing it. All manner of school buses, box trucks, speeding SUVs, garbage trucks, and the occasional commuter cyclist, share this space. Nobody has ever said boo about it being too narrow for two lanes of traffic.
And the tunnel is unidirectional!
Port Authority: Change your damned rule.
Yeah, but Perrymont doesn’t have concrete walls at the side of the 21’6″
I think it’s a much better thing for the port authority to keep their rule so there’s space for a cycletrack on the too narrow leftover section. Wasn’t the issue that some of the funding was tied to the tunnel’s HOVish-ness and modification of how it’s used that brings said funding into question? Then again, didn’t they make a change at some point so it wasn’t all HOV associated with the west carson street stuff? Seems that somehow the process for getting an exception was navigated… so, hope? Trying to reconstruct from vague memories here so this could all be wrong.
Yup, the feds gave PAT temporary permission to let cars with one person use the tunnel during West Carson construction. Story here.
The need to get federal permission is one of PAT’s many reasons not to let bikes use the tunnel. Given that it took three months for the feds to give approval for a time-sensitive temporary use, even with a whole bunch of politicians pushing them, I can see how PAT might think getting permission for bikes would be a challenge. But this is one of those challenging things that needs doing.
I remember hearing a while back that the problem with this project is that is was funded with federal monies, so there are some purse-strings attached to doing anything different with the tunnel.
My proposal is to continue unidirectional motor travel, but bi-directional bicycle travel. Bicycles and motor vehicles will share the space going one way. No need to reserve space on the same side for bicycles. With a speed limit of 25 mph, the same as nearly every two-lane street in the city, this should not be an issue. There exists a line down the middle. No need to change that.
Again, this is a paperwork exercise. No engineering studies, no change to striping, lighting, lane configuration, anything of that nature. Though it is mildly annoying to have to duck under the gate for the opposite direction, so maybe some sort of modification there might be necessary.
Think of who you’re catering to and where this ultimately can, and frankly must connect, the south side trail and the river trail system generally.
As much as I can dislike narrow cycletracks, is there a meaningful gradient that would make them inappropriate? Is the leftover lane really too narrow?
You’d get a lot more of the interested but concerned taking the idea of riding into town seriously if it weren’t shared with motorists in either direction (and hey, a lot less grumbling from motorists, too).
Would probably be a less complicated thing to get an exception for as well.
I can imagine riding through the Wabash tunnel with traffic in a sharrowed lane, but I don’t think I would be brave enough to ride the other way without serious protection, probably jersey barriers. And I’m pretty brave.
It would be helpful to get usage statistics on the tunnel, preferably hour by hour, if not even more granular.
I’m also looking for traffic volumes for city streets.
The tunnel is nearly level, though the ramp on the northern end has a noticeable gradient, as does Woodruff Street. But in terms of bike lanes (again, I am not asking for a bike lane, merely legal bike access), Forbes and Liberty are 4% and 6%, respectively.
The better comparison to anything downtown is Fourth Avenue. Bikes co-exist with cars, trucks and regular transit service on Fourth, buses cannot pass slower traffic, it’s one-way, and moderately uphill. If bikes are not a problem there, they won’t be a problem in the tunnel.
Uh, Fourth Ave is horrible, buses want to run you down. So, maybe that’s not the best selling point.
I may have made these points before but I’m too lazy to go through the thread. I like the concept of opening this up to cyclists but as Jon points out I think you need jersey barriers as protection. There have been too many bad crashes in the tunnel with just one way cars, and as a cyclists I want to truly be protected.
The tunnel is also very noisy due to the loud exhaust fans. You may think this is minor, but it can be both maddening and disturbing because you can barely hear traffic coming up behind you. I’ve not ridden Wabash yet, but I have gone through the bus tunnel to south hills junction a few times and its very stressful not being able to hear – another good peace of mind reason for the use of jersey barriers.
It might be more practical to use bendable candlesticks like the bike lanes downtown instead of Jersey barriers. What if a car breaks down in there, or there’s a crash? With candlesticks, a tow truck or ambulance could get around a stopped vehicle. With Jersey barriers, depending on the width of the space left for cars, seems like emergency vehicles would need to drive backwards through the tunnel, perhaps a long way, since they wouldn’t be able to either get past or turn around in a single narrow lane.
FWIW, I think PAT has been replacing the exhaust fans in the transit tunnel this year. The new ones might be less (or more) noisy.
No way I’m riding through that tunnel, opposite traffic, protected only by candlesticks.
I guess I’m nuts, I’d ride through it counter-traffic with nothing. Of course, people tell me the same when I tell them I ride through the Armstrong Tunnel, so, take for what you will.
I agree the fans are noisy. I’m sure this is something no traffic engineer ever thought of. I suspect that not only is there no spec to work from, there has never been the slightest inkling there might be a need for a spec.
But that’s the sort of thinking that’s going to require two decades to work out. I want access in 2015.
To me, the biggest problem is speeding cars. Like on the 10,000 miles of non-tunneled streets, they’re a problem. Unlike the 10,000 miles of non-tunneled streets, there is a wealth of overhead infrastructure to hook speed monitoring equipment to. They could video and ticket all 17 cars a day that use it as a speedway, and very quickly bring the more egregious violators to bear.
I don’t want candlesticks, barriers, anything. In fact, I’d like the stupid line down the middle removed. There is no reason at all for a mid-point line separation on a unidirectional tunnel.
If they want to put paint down, put two stripes, one each six feet from either wall, giving motor traffic 12 whole feet to work with in the middle, and bikes six feet either side.
While it’s true there’s a lot to hook speed cameras to, it doesn’t matter. The culture of enforcement you want is not going to be here in 2015, it will take the perception that driving is an option, not a necessity before there will be meaningful inroads into making that choice an accountable one.
So you’re putting the cart WAAAAAY (say, a generation) before the horse, in making slow down the cars your pretty much universal answer.
The route to getting interested but concerned cyclists out there is to make it not look so scary. It’s been proven again and again. A jersey barrier protected cycletrack fits that mold, and really, would it be so bad?
Now, I sometimes get annoyed at how narrow the current ones are and don’t like what they do to intersections so I’m normally a hard sell on them vs. regular sharrows and lanes or lanes uphill, sharrows down. In a tunnel? The inability to hear what’s coming, the tendency of cars to speed, the lower lighting compared to daytime, the lateral squish potential, the fact that car shrapnel has no place to gather but at the sides you’d put the bike lanes in in your last proposal, no thank you! Some dedicated and protected space for me!
If there were plastic delineator poles, I’d bike it in either direction.
The largest issue is ventilation for pedestrians. The exposure time is longer for bikes/peds due to the lower speeds and physical exposure. I thought it was discussed previously.
The liability is an issue when trying to convince governments and lawyers to take it on. I think a concrete barrier might help, but using candlesticks could allow for more flexibility in emergency vehicle types.
There would need to be cameras out the wazoo since (unfortunately) we can’t have nice things.
Do we have a baseline for air quality in the tunnel such that there could be the start of the debate whether it’s adequate? If the speed limit for motorists is 25mph and it’s actually been measured judged ok for that (vs. it never being measured), we can’t be THAT far off, can we?
The baseline is that the ventilation system was installed for a railroad. I do not know if it was upgraded for motorists. It is one of the reasons why there is not 2-way traffic in the tunnel – ie calculating emissions for a full tunnel with 2 lanes of traffic (worst case scenario).
Anecdotal comparisons consider the systems used on Liberty and Fort Pitt Tunnels. There are OSHA regulations for humans (bike/ped) and the fans that are there currently wouldn’t cut it – compared to Liberty and Ft Pitt.
Also, without the connections on either end worked out in terms of network there is no complete project. Projects that utilize federal funding (like those of this magnitude) require logical termini and independent utility.
I’d love to have it as a connection for bikes and pedestrians, but frankly the demand for improvements elsewhere decrease the likelihood of this being pursued anytime in the near future – lest it be with private funding. Make it a toll tunnel for everyone? But you’d still need to improve the network connection to get ridership up.
Actually, a worst-case scenario would involve a vehicle on fire with others backed up inside, with a number of pedestrians trying to get out.
A little bit of a wilder idea, but maybe we can turn lemons to lemonade here?
Thinking of Pocusset Street. There the problem was that it was too expensive to repair the hillside and road foundation to support motor vehicles’ weight, and so it became ours. Here, the problem is their exhaust. And is it REALLY ok with one lane of traffic or was that outcome just the result of successful begging instead of scientific fact, and if so perhaps that could a fresh set of measurements and a hard-nosed report are in order?
Just saying that if the ventilation were too poor for exhaust to clear properly that’s a mighty fine reason to restrict it to zero emission vehicles.
@ byogman Just saying that if the ventilation were too poor for exhaust to clear properly that’s a mighty fine reason to restrict it to zero emission vehicles
Oh, damn. I just KNEW I should have had that burrito without beans.
The baseline is that the ventilation system was installed for a railroad.
Pittsburgh Bridges says the tunnel was unventilated when the railroad was using it.
I do not know if it was upgraded for motorists.
The tunnel got a ventilation system upgrade in 1998. Presumably they were upgrading an earlier ventilation system. They did a bunch of upgrades starting in 1971 for Skybus, so perhaps that was when they installed the tunnel’s first ventilation system, or maybe it was earlier.
In 2014, the Wabash was closed daily for around two weeks so they could replace the ventilation fans.
This page says “The tunnel is equipped with ventilation fans, safety features such as carbon monoxide and fire detection systems, fire extinguishers, emergency telephones, and closed circuit cameras to monitor traffic. Port Authority will be stationed in the portal above the portal facing downtown 16 hours-a-day to monitor conditions and respond to problems that may arise.” So I don’t think the “it’s inadequate for cars” approach is going to fly. :-)
It is one of the reasons why there is not 2-way traffic in the tunnel – ie calculating emissions for a full tunnel with 2 lanes of traffic (worst case scenario).
I’ve always read that it was simply the width. It’s hard for me to believe that with the tens of millions they’ve spent on the tunnel, they couldn’t put in adequate fans, if that were the only impediment to two-way traffic.
I would be so unbelievably happy if Perrymont Road had unidirectional motor traffic with bikes going both ways. Roads like that are at least half the paved surface in the county, but two-way traffic, and somehow accommodate bikes.
I’m sorry, but the tunnel being “not safe enough” and “not wide enough” arguments fall flat on their faces, in my opinion.
The only infrastructure change I would make is to remove that stripe down the middle.
Looks like I am mistaken about the fans then, thanks.
I was looking at OSHA and AASHTO regs to see how the standards are applied when determining “enough” ventilation. I think there is a reason that some people are engineers and others are not.
Tunnels full of CO emitting vehicles and potential fires are things that cannot be dismissed to lightly. Considering the size of the tunnel, you could easily spend $10M and not have adequate ventilation for the use that is desired here.
I have been in the tunnel with motorists illegally driving in the opposite direction, so width is not so much an issue as the ability to vent the tunnel and liability involved. Also consider the increase in congestion at the portals and approach roadways with 2-way traffic. The Port Authority does not want to take on mitigating it. If the state ever follows through with their HOV lanes from the Banksville interchange, it could happen, but then we would have that unfortunate new bridge across the Mon River just for commuters.
Back to the original topic, it may be possible to take over the tunnel if the Port Authority continues to struggle with funding. At least if one were to come up with a funding source to relieve their maintenance/debt burden relative to the tunnel then you could negotiate. Considering the scarcity of funds and need for other improvements I do not think it is likely. Perhaps crowd sourcing it?
Pittsburgh has made such great progress in biking, but the south hills and west end is stuck in 1957.
Do I need to just come out and say it? Just ban cars altogether from the Wabash Tunnel, and make bicycles its primary purpose.
We can shut the whole thing down for a week at a time, and it doesn’t make a smidgen of difference to traffic backups anywhere else. You can shut down the Fort Pitt Tunnels for hours at a time and see hardly an uptick in its usage.
If vehicular pollution is the problem, fine, that’s easily fixed by removing the source of the pollution. That also means you can shut off the fans, making it much quieter. It also reduces the electric bill, not having to run a dozen big motors. For that matter, you can turn off at least half the lights in the tunnel, too. It’s insanely overlit.
Meanwhile, as Mick said, south and west of the city essentially have no reasonable access to downtown by bike. It’s 1957, and not likely to change. Ever. Unless…
Not only do I propose shutting it off to cars, I previously proposed spending a huge sum of money to do the job properly to connect West and South: a bike way from River Street in the McKees Rocks Bottoms to Glenbury in Overbrook, with connecting ramps where needed. Hell, put a roof over it while we’re building it at all. But connect it to town via Wabash. Yeah, it’ll probably cost $50 million by the time we’re finished. Yeah, tax dollars. Yeah, gas tax dollars. Yeah, no hope of recovery of those costs from those cyclists.
Yeah, I’m serious.
And no, I don’t care that it’s a screwy, “out there” sort of idea. So were the Parkway and the Fort Pitt Tunnel and two new stadiums screwy, “out there” ideas once.
Just ban cars altogether from the Wabash Tunnel, and make bicycles its primary purpose.
YEAH, DUDE ! ! !
The Wabash tunnel is, after all, an old railway tunnel.
Someone would have to pay for it. But I agree that it seems like the best use of that tunnel. It’s closed half the time anyway. And the rest of the time it’s rarely used. Instead of a white elephant we’d have the longest dedicated bike tunnel in the country, forming a critical link to a difficult to access area.
If it’s only for bikes, no pedestrians, it might qualify as the longest such tunnel. But there seem to be a few longer rail-trail tunnels in the US that allow both bikes and pedestrians.
I agree that would be wonderful to have to ourselves. I don’t see it as the least bit realistic unless it was going to be shut down to motor vehicles owing to emissions anyway.
I seriously doubt the bike community could shoulder a financial burden the port authority can’t, and I don’t think it should try.
We can use a part that’s unused, let’s campaign like hell to do it. If there are more costs that would be associated with upgrading the ventilation for us, challenge the port authority for the vehicle counts, close it to motorists for a week, open it to cyclists, and then with the relative figures (I bet we can beat the cars or at least come close) come to the city and say, hey now, it’s moving people you care about, right? And by the way this’ll get used a ton more if you do X,Y and Z to connect whereas there’s no way to do remotely similar bang for the buck connectors for cars.
The argument should not be cost or engineering or ownership or traffic counts. All of those are relevant here-and-now issues, but overlook the long-term problems of access to downtown by a sizable chunk of the immediate city to the average cyclist.
The corner of West Liberty and Potomac is about as far from downtown as Forbes and Dallas, but an order of magnitude more difficult by bike. This means that unless you’re either dedicated or desperate, your only access is by fuel-powered means. This is a recipe for placing that entire part of town at economic disadvantage. You don’t need a Ph.D. in macroeconomics to see that that’s how you create a slum.
Think about it. Unless you live close enough to the portals on either end — West End Bridge downstream, Becks Run Rd upstream — that entire region south of the ridge south of the Mon becomes an Area You Just Can’t Live In because of transportation non-access, if said access is dependent upon petroleum.
Are you saying that an area difficult to access by bike is more likely to become a slum? Or do you mean that’ll be true when we run low on petroleum, whenever that happens?
I agree that if you decide not to, or can’t, use petroleum, then lots of the South Hills is out for you. But won’t that still be true, even if we add new bike routes on the Wabash and along Saw Mill Run and various other places? You could at last get from the corner of West Liberty and Potomac to downtown without having to climb any strenuous hills, but your house isn’t on that corner, it’s probably up another big hill. Or maybe your house is in a valley but the nearest pharmacy or supermarket is up a hill. The South Hills will always be at a disadvantage for cyclists, compared to flatter regions. Projects like the Wabash are really about how much of a disadvantage.
I agree that the focus should be on improving access from the southern neighborhoods and boroughs rather than focusing on the tunnel. If you can gain safe access to the area where the southern end of the Wabash is, you can go up Woodruff St. and continue on Merrimac St until you get to Grandview Ave, then head down McCardle.
I haven’t been on Woodruff+Merrimac during rush hour, but it seems like it would be good as a designated bike route. Woodruff is wide enough that you can put a bike lane uphill and sharrows downhill, then sharrows in both directions on Merrimac (there’s residential curb parking). The grade isn’t easy but it’s not double-digit steep either. One issue though would be that I think this is the designated alternate route for the Liberty tunnel, so that would be mean more traffic whenever that happens.
If you can get enough people to bike to this area, then we can start looking into opening the Wabash for cyclists.
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