Friday, July 26, 2013

Pittsburgh's North Shore part two: Transportation and Recreational Use

In my vision for a complete overhaul of the North Side, I propose a restored street grid of the original city of Allegheny before the city of Pittsburgh annexed it in the early 20th Century. The original street grid along with numerous other structures were eliminated in the mid-20th Century to make way for Allegheny Center, which was a misguided attempt to recreate suburbia in the urban core. At the time, shopping malls were erected all across the region including Monroeville Mall and South Hills Village.

City planners thought that constructing Allegheny Center would bring shoppers back to the city. Instead, it was a lightly used sprawling monstrosity that isolated parts of the North Side neighborhood. Traffic along several streets had to be rerouted onto several roundabout routes. Through traffic on Federal and E/W. Ohio Streets was rerouted on a series of new streets, Commons Blvd North, South, East, and West, which formed a square around the urban mall. With limited access from I-279, not to mention the complete lack of major public transit access (a bus terminal or several regional rail lines), not too many people used the retail facility, and it ultimately closed in 1991.

Restored street grid, reconstructed interstate highway, and new Amtrak station

My vision calls for a complete overhaul of this whole area including a mix of office, retail, residential, and hotel use. This part of my vision will be discussed later. For now I will focus on rebuilding the street grid among other transportation infrastructure improvements. Among these improvements is the cut and cover of I-279. Currently it is an elevated highway that serves as a barrier between the Central North Side and the Allegheny River. Dropping the road deck below grade and covering it with green decking will create new green space in space that will enhance connectivity between the Central North Side and the waterfront even though Federal Street, Anderson Street, and Sandusky Street already extend from the North Side to the waterfront.

Rather than doing something similar with the Norfolk-Southern tracks, I would suggest relocating the Amtrak station to a new one in this part of the North Shore. It's a relatively straight stretch of track which would allow for high-level ADA-accessible platforms. In addition to Amtrak, I would suggest a series of regional rail lines as referenced in an earlier post. Such a use would bring more people to this part of the city, and it would provide more of a sense of continuity between Allegheny Center and the Allegheny Riverfront. Below is an aerial shot of the Amtrak station constructed around the existing Norfolk-Southern tracks. In front of the station is some green decking over I-279 complete with landscaping and walking paths.

Biking and pedestrian access/trails and open space

Given the development of park space that currently is situated from the Clemente Bridge down to the Rivers Casino, I would suggest some open space containing ample hiking and biking trails and other pedestrian-friendly infrastructure (wider sidewalks, wider lanes to accommodate a bike lane) throughout the North Side. Above I mentioned some sidewalks included in the green decking of the highway. I have illustrated a network of such sidewalks that extend down the reconstructed Reetsdale Street to other newly constructed green space that will integrate with the C.C.A.C. North Side campus. In the image below, the CCAC campus is located top left-center, beneath which a new alignment of Amtrak infrastructure passes.

While not yet included in the illustration, I also suggest extending some green space in a linear fashion along the Fort Duquesne alignment to connect with the Allegheny River. This would create a continuous network of recreational space from the Allegheny waterfront all the way inland to Commons Park at Allegheny Center.
There are several goals and objectives that this project will accomplish, and they include
  • Improving the transportation network, eliminating confusing freeway access points and replacing them with more simplified infrastructure
  • Improving the potential for economic development
  • Making the neighborhood more bike and pedestrian friendly by adding and incorporating more infrastructure to the existing urban fabric.
  • Creating a network of green space extending from the Allegheny River inland to Allegheny Center.