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Allegheny

Pittsburgh City Council vote could be too late for North Side bridge funding

Bob Bauder
| Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, 4:57 p.m.
Signs advise motorists that West Ohio Street is closed at a bridge crossing Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks. The bridge is open to pedestrians and bicyclists.
Signs advise motorists that West Ohio Street is closed at a bridge crossing Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks. The bridge is open to pedestrians and bicyclists.

Pittsburgh City Council took a step Wednesday in allocating funds for a new bridge over railroad tracks on the North Side, but a city official said it could be too late to receive $4.6 million in state and federal highway funds that would cover the cost of construction.

Karina Ricks, director of Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, previously said Pittsburgh could lose the money if council failed to approve funding for reconstruction of the bridge on West Ohio Street by Sept. 20. On Wednesday, Ricks said she was guessing at the deadline, which has already passed, and she was unsure if the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation would release the money.

“We really have not been able to get a definite answer from PennDOT,” Ricks said, noting that council has delayed a vote on the resolution since March. “We’re hoping.”

The bridge has stirred controversy for years among North Siders, who oppose altering the historic bridge design and fear Norfolk Southern trains carrying dangerous materials could derail in their neighborhood. The city is required to raise the bridge from its current level of 19 feet to 22 feet so double-stacked rail cars can pass under it.

Council members cast a preliminary 5-1 vote to allocate the money, and they’re scheduled for a final vote Tuesday. Councilwoman Darlene Harris of Spring Hill, who represents the North Side, voted against the measure.

Harris said she opposes the project because of the rail dangers. She said she has yet to receive documentation showing project deadlines and wants city, state and railroad officials to meet with residents and discuss the project.

“I did not receive the information that I asked for,” she said. “I also asked for a community meeting. Also, we have the state and state officials working to ensure that the community has input into this.”

Ricks said West Ohio is one of Pittsburgh’s busiest streets and city residents and commuters need the transportation connection.

“We must restore this bridge,” she said. “It’s an important connection to the city. It’s important for the operations of the city.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, bbauder@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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