South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

Safety measures needed at 18th and Mary


Last updated 9/25/2018 at 4:38am

Many of you are already aware of a number of planned safety measures coming to the South Side Flats to calm traffic and improve safety for pedestrians. East Carson Street, in a combined effort between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and City of Pittsburgh, will be the beneficiary of a multi-million dollar street improvement project benefiting mass transit, vehicular traffic, local businesses and pedestrians with much needed safety and streetscape enhancements. Construction beginning fall of 2018.

Complementing these efforts are improved safety measures also coming to the 18th Street corridor. Traffic signal upgrades are in the works for 18th and Carson, 18th and Jane and 18th and Sarah. With the investment of approximately $2 million of federally allocated funds, the intersection of 18th and Josephine will also be redesigned and a traffic signal installed, bringing much needed safety improvements to a very complicated intersection.

In concert with these much-needed improvements, the intersection of 18th and Mary streets was reviewed by the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure and a number of options considered to, again, calm traffic and improve safety for pedestrians. Appropriate interventions had to be mindful of a very heavily traveled intersection, bus stop accessibility, safety for persons of all abilities in crossing the streets, and the presence of the Engine 24 Firehouse.

The "near side" bus stop (a bus stop located before an intersection) lacked adequate space for the bus to fully access the curb both blocking traffic while loading and unloading passengers and presenting challenges for persons with disabilities who may use the bus. By relocating the stop to the far side of the intersection the bus had adequate space, sightlines to and from Mary were improved and the curb zone remained free for fire station operations.

Pedestrian safety was a concern given the speed of vehicles coming down the hill and visibility challenges coming around the curve and under the rail bridge. Department staff considered a number of alternatives.

Signalization was considered and ultimately rejected as being cost prohibitive (approximately $400,000) and unable to meet signal warrants.

A four-way stop was rejected as the department discourages mixing sign and signal stop controls on the same corridor.

The department briefly considered a configuration known as a "neighborhood roundabout" which would create a small traffic circle within the existing curb lines of the intersection but this too was rejected as inappropriate given proximity to the fire station. Pedestrian refuge islands were similarly eliminated as inappropriate adjacent to the station.

The city also considered turning a section of Mary Street one-way eastbound to lessen the dangers associated with entering onto 18th Street; heavily traveled with difficult sight-lines and many recorded accidents. This proved to be prone to confusion because of the number of vehicles using the intersection and the number of years that Mary has been a two-way street. This too was set aside.

What was then to come out of these considerations was a solution that is quickly gaining favorability in many of the city's complex and complicated street grids.

For very little cost, and in-house labor from our Department of Public Works, "virtual bump-outs" and a fourth crosswalk would be created using only paint and flexpost bollards. The paint and bollards demarcated and highlighted the corners of the intersection where state law already prohibits parking. The installation is designed to improve compliance to ensure sightlines remain clear.

This improves safety for vehicles entering and existing the intersection and greatly enhances visibility of pedestrians waiting to cross thereby providing significant safety improvements for them. The visually narrowed travel lanes effectively calm traffic while accommodating the same volume and types of vehicles. The bollards are both durable and flexible - guiding vehicles to the safest line of travel while giving way should larger vehicle track against them and springing back into position after. The reflective tape makes them highly visible at night providing safety enhancements at any hour of the day.

Finishing out this "re-design," an existing loading zone on Mary Street was doubled in size to assist businesses located in the intersection with short-term parking for their patrons.

Traffic calming measures such as this have been installed at a number of locations around the city including Murray and Forward Avenues in Squirrel Hill, Fifth and Bellefield in Oakland, along several blocks of Penn Avenue through the Strip District and around Allegheny Circle in the Northside. Additionally, improvements are under design for Grandview Avenue and Merrimac Street in Mt Washington, Saline Street in Greenfield, Beechwood Boulevard near the Frick Environmental Center, and S. Dallas in Shadyside. All are designed to improve safety toward the city's goal to eliminate traffic related fatalities in Pittsburgh.

We sincerely believe these traffic calming measures will draw the attention of all that travel this intersection, encourage them to travel safely and be mindful of all, vehicular or pedestrian, that use this very heavily traveled intersection. We appreciate your flexibility and willingness to welcome these low cost, high return, inventive traffic calming measures.

Karina Ricks, Director,

Department of Mobility and Infrastructure

Bruce A, Kraus,

Councilman, Third Council District


Reader Comments(2)

ScottRAB writes:

Roundabouts are built near fire stations all the time.

ScottRAB writes:

Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world - the intersection type with the lowest risk of fatal or serious injury crashes - (much more so than comparable signals). Modern roundabouts require a change in speed and alter the geometry of one of the most dangerous parts of the system - intersections. Visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for modern roundabout FAQs and safety facts. Roundabouts are one of several proven road safety features (FHWA).


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