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Pittsburgh Council approves Penn Avenue project funding

| Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 11:57 p.m.

Garfield residents and businesses along a bumpy four-block stretch of Penn Avenue are gearing up for a $5 million reconstruction that will close the street to outbound traffic for up to two years.

Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday approved funding for the project set to begin in August. Pittsburgh is paying about $1 million from its capital budget, and the rest is coming from federal highway funding.

“We're worried about parking,” said Angela Calabria, an owner of Calabria's Italian Restaurant on Penn. “It's already hard to park, and we rely on delivery service. But we believe it's going to really bring back the neighborhood and provide a lot of business in the area.”

Improvements include a new concrete street and sidewalks on both sides of Penn, lighted benches, black Fiberglas light poles to replace rusted relics and trees with retention basins to catch stormwater.

Traffic will be restricted to vehicles traveling inbound toward Downtown. Outbound traffic will be detoured off of Penn at Main Street to Liberty Avenue, Baum Boulevard and back onto Penn.

Patrick Hassett, the city's transportation and development coordinator, estimates the work could take up to two years. He said it will proceed one block at a time to minimize the nuisance. Workers will finish one side of the street, then return for the other.

“I think it will be pretty frustrating,” said Kristen Staab, 24, whose apartment is in the planned work area. “I'm sure there will be a plus to it, but do I feel it's absolutely necessary? Not really.”

Aggie Brose, deputy director of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp., said the improvements will complement those completed around Penn Avenue during the last decade.

The community revitalization organization has built about 100 new homes at a cost of $21.5 million during that time. Twenty new businesses, including restaurants and art galleries, have moved into vacant storefronts on Penn in the past five years.

More reconstruction on Penn to Aiken Avenue is planned when money is available.

“I think I've gone through three mayors working on this,” Brose said. “People make a judgment call on the whole community based on what they see on Penn Avenue.

“This is going to really lift the neighborhood up the way it should be.”

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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