Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rethinking Pittsburgh's North Side, part one

In 1969, PennDOT constructed PA 65 to allow vehicular traffic to cross the Ft. Duquesne Bridge to the North Side. For ten years, there were no roads to allow traffic to cross this bridge. In the mid-1980s, PennDOT constructed the 12-mile-long freeway that would be designated as Interstate 279, and a few years later the Veterans Bridge was built. This network of limited-access freeways would ultimately isolate the Central North Shore from the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers.

Those roads were built during a time when auto-centric design was popular. Engineers designed freeways as ways of reducing travel times. They had access points in a select few places in the suburban outskirts of our urban areas, and at the same time they only had a handful of interchanges within the urban cores. In many cases, these roads cut through neighborhoods, creating a sense of isolation among the people who lived or worked in these areas.

In an earlier post, I opined about our urban freeways and ideas of how to redesign them to interact better with the urban fabric that surrounds them. In this post I will discuss my vision for a specific freeway on Pittsburgh's North Side. As I indicated above, PennDOT designed an urban freeway that has little to no interaction with the surrounding neighborhoods. They may improve travel time between Downtown and suburbia, but they provide little to no access or mobility to the folks directly adjacent to these concrete monstrosities.

Below are two images of my vision for how I-279 should be redesigned. I am also going to refer to this post as the first of three installments of this vision. In later posts, I will focus on more transportation improvements, including improved rail as well as bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and I will discuss land use as I focus on redeveloping Allegheny Center, which was a failed attempt as a suburban shopping mall currently used as office/commercial use. The first image is an aerial image of the entire project area. The second image is a close-up of Reetsdale Street and PA 65 near the Community College of Allegheny College North Side campus.