South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Austin Vaught
Contributing Writer 

Zipline across the Ohio proposed for Mt. Washington site


Last updated 7/29/2020 at 9:09pm

Concepts for a half-mile zipline ride that would take riders from Mount Washington to the North Shore received mixed reactions during the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) Development Committee’s virtual meeting last Wednesday.

More than 50 residents joined the virtual Zoom meeting to hear Pittsburgh Zipline Company CEO Jeremy Goldman’s plans for a new project that would send riders flying 40 miles per hour across the Ohio River.

The Pittsburgh Zipline Company is considering two possible routes for the new zipline ride. The first would begin at the top of Emerald View Park across from the intersection of Grandview Avenue and Augusta Street and would land near the Carnegie Science Center. The second option would start at the West End Overlook and land at the proposed North Shore Esplanade.

According to Mr. Goldman, the zipline would run to the west in both scenarios, so it wouldn’t interfere with any city skyline views. The traffic impact on the community would also be minimal as the entire experience would start and end at the Pittsburgh Zipline Company’s retail location on the North Shore. Riders would register before being shuttled to the starting point in electric passenger vans.

Mr. Goldman said the Pittsburgh Zipline Company is partnering with ZipRider, one of the world’s largest and safest zipline engineers, to design the ride. The entire system would consist of four lines. Riders would be strapped into a harness with hand brakes that provide some control over the speed; however, an automatic braking system at the bottom of the line would ensure a safe landing into the station.

The Pittsburgh Zipline Company has consulted with the Army Corps of Engineers, the United States Coast Guard, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation as well as Mayor William Peduto and Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith. Mr. Goldman said each organization found the proposal to be acceptable, so long as guidelines are followed.

However, the railroad companies that own the tracks along West Carson Street have concerns with the concept. Mr. Goldman said they believe passenger zipline above the railroad airspace could present a safety hazard. While negotiations are still underway, the current proposal has the zipline at 250 feet above the railroad tracks.

The launching pad that would be installed at one of the two locations would consist of two wooden platforms, a launch tower, and three cement pillars. The platform would be fully secured during non-business hours.

Mr. Goldman said his company still needs to conduct a geostatic and soil analysis on both launching sites, but residents were quick to point out that several organizations have conducted soil analysis on Emerald View Park and have determined the land is too fragile for construction. The land has also been the site of several large landslides over the past eight years.

“Everybody does things at the expense of the residents up here,” a resident said on the call. “We don’t need a world class tram going over the river. You’re toying with very fragile land up here.”

Mr. Goldman said that his company will not build if the soil analysis shows the land is unsafe.

“We’re not going to build anything where there will be a landslide in the future,” Mr. Goldman said. “We could work together to make sure the sidewalks are improved, lighting is improved. We want to make sure we’re working with you.”

Several residents questioned how the Zipline company would benefit the Mount Washington community, especially since the tourists are being shuttled in vans and will not have the opportunity to visit local businesses or spend money

“I am totally against this proposal,” a resident said in the Zoom chat. “No benefit for our community at all. I honestly hope this does not go through.”

However, other residents were happy to hear the proposed plans wouldn’t result in an increase in traffic.

“I’ve been on Grandview for 15 years, and this is really exciting,” another resident said. “Hope you’ll work with us, and the community, and we can end up where everyone wants.”

Mr. Goldman said he wants to do everything in partnership with the residents of the launching neighborhood and is open to suggestions on the traffic pattern of the shuttle vans and what local businesses to showcase.

While the zipline project has been initially approved for insurance, Mr. Goldman said the project is not at the point where work has begun on a construction or development plan.

Following the presentation from The Pittsburgh Zipline Company, MWCDC Development Committee chair Greg Panza discussed concepts for two new banners that will be placed along Grandview Avenue.

One set of banners will have an illustration of the hillside and the Monongahela Incline. These banners will be placed on every other pole along the residential side of Grandview Avenue.

The other set of banners, which will be placed alongside the city side of Grandview Avenue, will have the word “Welcome” in 16 different languages. The languages selected are based on student enrollment data from the University of Pittsburgh.

According to Mr. Panza, the banners will be double stitched, double pocketed, and will be about ten times the strength of traditional vinyl banners which will give them a longer life expectancy.

There will be 16 banners each costing $250 apiece. Add in design, printing, materials, and installation the total project cost is expected to be around $10,000. The development committee will be seeking financial help from the community and local businesses. The hope is to kick off the printing process within the next month.

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