By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Mission Street Bridge, 18th Street corridor slated for improvments


October 16, 2018

The Oct. 9 meeting of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) began with elections.

The slate of candidates approved unanimously was comprised of Jamie Balser, Blake McClaren, Donna Tarkett, Gavin Robb, Candice Gonzalez, and Kristin Raup.

According to the bylaws, voting members must be at least 18 years of age and have attended at least two general meetings this past year.

SSSNA board President Raup, who conducted the meeting, announced the group’s 2019 meetings would be held at the St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center, the site of that evening’s meeting.

Next, city Councilman Bruce Kraus said he and Karina Ricks, director of the Mobility and Infrastructure Department, and Dan Gilman, the mayor’s chief of staff, toured the Mission St. Bridge over the summer to view the deterioration.

In the 2018 city budget there is funding to fix the curbs and pave the street this year.

The 2019 budget includes funds to clean, paint, and remove the fence and add a new one.

“Preventative maintenance is the key,” he said.

Repairs under the bridge will not occur at this time.

The schedule is for contracts in November, followed by two months of construction. The work will occur weekdays with no weekends.

One lane will be open at all times.

He also reported on the upcoming federally-funded 18th St. signals upgrades for pedestrian safety. The upgrades will occur at 18th and Sarah streets; 18th and Jane streets; 18th St. and Arlington Ave .; and Brownsville Rd. and Bausman St.

18th and Josephine streets will receive a new signal, and will be federally funded.

The 18th and Carson streets signal will be funded by the state.

The project requires 12 months of engineering, followed by 18 months of construction into 2020.

Mr. Kraus said that 18th and Mary streets is not signalized, and that it would cost $400,000 at minimum from the city’s capital budget to install one. So, it will not be done.

He also reported that up to $3.2 million over three years will be budgeted by the city for South Side Park, and that a $2-3 million restoration of the Oliver Bath House is planned. The city recently received a $1 million grant from the state for the Oliver Bath House project.

Next, Tracy Myers, an 18-year Slopes resident delivered a brief historical overview of the South Side Planning Forum and the South Side Neighborhood Plan.

She said the genesis of the Planning Forum in 1985 was that South Siders wanted to get together to talk about a big problem: parking. An issue that followed was what should be built on the former LTV site.

The Planning Forum formed as a consensus group. Forum member representatives report back to their organizations to see if there is agreement with a particular matter. If one member organization is opposed, the Planning Forum does not take a stand on that matter.

A few years earlier, in 1982, another community-based organization -- the South Side Local Development Company -- formed to promote the economic revitalization and historic preservation of South Side. It dissolved in 2012 as its mission of promoting economic development in the South Side was completed.

After the formation of the Planning Forum, it did not take long for the realization to emerge that the neighborhood had other pressing issues. As a result, in 1985, it was decided to craft a neighborhood plan.

The name of the first plan was “Policy Guidelines,” as the plan is a set of guidelines.

“These are policy guidelines that articulate what is important to us in the neighborhood,” she said.

The plan took five years to complete as a unanimous vote among forum member organizations to adopt had to take place in order for the plan, and its subsequent updates over the years, to pass.

The neighborhood plan has been revised ten times.

Ms. Myers called the neighborhood plan today “truly a living document” as it is reviewed every six months.

“The Planning Forum and the neighborhood plan are vehicles for empowerment and self-determination,” she said.

She concluded with news that the city now has a Registered Community Organization (RCO) program that gives formal status to community organizations that register with the City of Pittsburgh and provides benefits to those organizations.

The benefits include notification of public hearings, guaranteed meetings with developers/applicants, placement on official brochures, and more.

“It is a way to guarantee that your opinion is taken into consideration,” she said.

The meeting concluded with a report of the prior weekend’s 18th Annual StepTrek, the non-competitive, self-guided walking tour of the Slopes.

Ms. Raup said there were 340 pre-sold tickets, and 140 walk-up purchases. Sponsorships totaled $13,000. The event profited more than $12,000.

The SSSNA’s annual holiday party will be held on Dec. 11.


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