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Proposed pedestrian link between Hill District, Downtown gains momentum

| Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 2:06 p.m.
This map shows planned improvements to the former Civic Arena site including a proposed pedestrian bridge over I-579 between Centre Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard, which would add a link between Downtown and the Lower Hill. It also shows plans for new roads where the arena stood.
A proposed 'cap' linking the Lower Hill District and downtown Pittsburgh would include a pedestrian bridge over Interstate 579 with trees and sidewalks.

The Sports & Exhibition Authority will spend as much as $1.1 million to determine the cost and feasibility of building a pedestrian bridge that would link Downtown and the Lower Hill District near the spot where the Civic Arena once stood.

Federal money will reimburse the SEA for 80 percent of the cost, said Mary Conturo, the city-county authority's executive director, leaving the public agency with a tab of up to $225,000.

Authority board members voted on Wednesday to give HDR Inc., an engineering firm with offices Downtown, a contract to complete preliminary designs for a so-called “cap” that would span a portion of I-579 between Centre Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard.

The plans are expected to take about nine months to complete.

“This gets us to the point where we can speak with some authority on how feasible this project is and how much it will cost,” Conturo said.

Conceptual drawings show the bridge, including sidewalks and grassy areas connecting Crosstown Park to the undeveloped 28-acre site where the Pittsburgh Penguins have proposed a more than $500 million development that would include retail shops, residences and entertainment venues. No vehicle access is planned for the bridge.

A large portion of the 28-acre site is an 800-space parking lot, which Penguins officials have said is temporary while they complete development plans. Commuters and those attending events at Consol Energy Center, which replaced the Civic Arena on the opposite side of Centre Avenue, use the lot, which generates revenue for the Penguins.

Demolition of the Civic Arena was completed in 2012. Consol Energy Center, its replacement, opened in 2010.

In a separate vote, board members authorized an agreement with Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority that would give the sports authority control of land that will be used for road construction on the Melody Tent site, which was an auxiliary parking lot behind the arena before it was demolished. The URA is set to consider selling the land for $1 at its meeting on Thursday.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or

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