By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Slopes updated on city steps plan, East Carson Street safety projects


Presentations on the city steps plan and on the East Carson Street safety improvement project headlined the May meeting of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA).

Angie Martinez, of the city’s new Dept. of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI), said the city steps plan began a year ago when the city obtained a grant to look at its 800 public staircases.

A project team held citywide public meetings and attended neighborhood meetings to describe the project and solicit input. An interactive online map, which allowed users to comment on the steps they used the most, was developed.

The most common obstacles identified by respondents were structural deterioration, overgrown vegetation, and poor lighting. Step-specific surveys asked respondents to rate the condition of the step from very poor to excellent. A majority (55 percent, 259 steps) were said to be in “good” condition, and 32 percent (152 steps) were rated “fair.” Thirty-seven steps (8 percent) were rated poor or very poor.

Among the other findings were: 54 percent of respondents use the steps at least once a week; 16 percent use the steps more than once a day; and exercise is the most common reason the steps are used.

The city then developed a systematic method for prioritizing which sets of steps should be repaired and rebuilt. The result was 150 priority sets of steps. The prioritization was based on four indices: transit access, detours, proximity to schools, and overall priority.

In the Slopes, 11 sets of steps – classified as overall, detour, and transit -- were deemed priorities.

They are: (Overall): S 18th Street near Josephine Street to Pius Street; Pius Street to Gregory Street; Yard Way from Gregory Street to Magdalene Street; Yard Way from Pius Street to Gregory Street; Clover Street from Eccles Street to Arlington Avenue; Clover Street from Commanche Way to Eccles Street; Emerald Way from Carnival Way to Excelsior Street; and Emerald Way from Arlington Avenue to Carnival Way.

(Detour): Stella Street.

(Transit): Cedarhurst Street from Arlington Avenue to Ibis Way; and Loyal Way from Mt. Oliver Street to Arlington Avenue.

Ms. Martinez said the prioritizing means reaching out to communities again and finding out if the priorities, based on a data analysis perspective, are the correct ones from a community’s perspective.

A report is being finalized, with publication hoped for June.

“The report is just setting the groundwork for us to be able to invest more strategically in our city steps,” Ms. Martinez said.

Engineers, for which there is no timeline, will do a structural analysis of the 150 priority steps. Railings are also targeted besides structures. After the structural assessment, funds can be sought.

“Having the structural analysis is a powerful tool in pursuing funding as we will have a better idea of what we are looking for,” Ms. Martinez said.

To a question of whether cultural importance is a factor, she said no.

“Cultural significance – how to you measure that?” she said.

Ms. Martinez said the project may have a life of 10 years or more, subject to change.

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Next, neighborhood planner Felipe Palomo, of the city’s Dept. of City Planning, discussed the $17.5 million East Carson St. safety improvement project that extends from the Smithfield St. Bridge to 33rd Street.

While the undertaking is primarily a state Dept. of Transportation [PennDOT] project, the city will conduct its own work in coordination with PennDOT: pedestrian lighting, street lighting at unsignalized intersections, street trees and furnishings, benches in heavily-used areas, new trash cans, and more.

Project construction is expected to begin in late 2018 and last for one year.

In 2012, the corridor was ranked #6 statewide as a high crash corridor location. Its 474 crashes contained three fatalities; 11 major injuries; 86 pedestrian crashes; and two bicycle crashes.

In light of its being the second highest pedestrian crash location in the region, improving safety throughout the corridor is the project purpose.

Other goals are improving multimodal mobility, such as pedestrian and bicycle movements and transit accommodations, and reducing congestion.

Typical improvements include enhancing pedestrian accommodations, like installing curb extensions, ADA compliant curb ramps, and high visibility crosswalks; enhancing transit accommodations with the addition of bus super stops; accommodating cyclists; upgrading traffic signals and signage; improving visibility for pedestrians and motor vehicles; and mill and overlay pavement.

There are also plans to install pedestrian refuge islands.

Other corridor improvements involve complete sidewalk connection from the stairwell on the Birmingham Bridge to Carson Street, and complete bike lane connection from the Birmingham Bridge to Carson Street.

Within the corridor are other City of Pittsburgh projects. Those projects include the South Side neighborhood streets project; East Carson Street streetscaping project; 18th St. signals project; and, the South Side Park master plan.

Also, within the corridor Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) is planning a Station Square transit center project.

Another project within the corridor is by the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority/Western Pennsylvania Conservancy: a 21st Street green infrastructure project.

The total planned investment within the corridor is $56.7 million.

The projected first-year benefits of the East Carson Street safety improvement project are reductions in: percentage of crashes; vehicle hours of delay; stops along the corridor; fuel usage; and emissions. There are also monetary benefits in each of those reductions.

Next, Mr. Palomo provided a brief overview of the master plan for South Side Park, the next step which is to apply for funding to turn the plan into reality.

Among the 40 elements chosen for the park are: ADA-accessible boardwalk; open-air pavilion over small building; amphitheater; renovated entrance with parking; renovated bathrooms, concessions, and scoreboard; public art opportunity; trail for BMX access; renovated Arlington Recreation Center; seating at Jurassic Valley overlook; Mission Street connector trail; ropes course; basketball court and play area renovations; and east /west connector trail.

Over the past few months community events were conducted by the city, Studio Bryan Hanes, and the Friends of South Side Park (Friends) to solicit input for the master plan process.

The goal was to create a master plan that presented a strategy for the implementation of achievable projects that may be funded by future city budgets or other sources.

To fund the master plan process, a $40,000 grant was received from the state Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). The city matched the grant, for a total of $80,000 to design a plan.

The next SSSNA general meeting is scheduled for October 9.


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