Pittsburgh mulling pedestrian bridge connecting Davis Avenue and Riverview Park
Residents of Pittsburgh’s North Side for years have argued for and against replacing the demolished Davis Avenue Bridge.
Now, city officials think they’ve found a compromise.
Pittsburgh City Council this week gave preliminary authorization for the Mayor’s Office and Department of Mobility and Infrastructure to seek $1.8 million from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development for construction of a bridge that could be used only by pedestrians and bicyclists. A final vote on authorization is expected Tuesday.
“People have been pushing for something here since before the bridge came down,” said Mark Masterson, who chairs the volunteer group Friends of Riverview Park. “Now, with the bike-pedestrian bridge, you take away any of the people who were opposed because you’re not going to run cars through, and you’ve got this great connection. It’s like you’ve extended Riverview Park across the valley.”
Dan Gilman, Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief of staff, said the state grant and city matching funds, combined totaling $2.5 million, would pay for an engineering study to determine whether a pedestrian bridge is feasible.
“We have been working with some community leaders for about a year now to try to identify what are the potentials for using any of the existing infrastructure and what would be needed to create new infrastructure for a bike and pedestrian connection at the site of the Davis Avenue Bridge,” Gilman said. “We think that bike-pedestrian connectivity would be a win for the North Side.”
The city demolished the 19th century bridge stretching nearly 400 feet across Woods Run in 2009 because of structural deficiencies. Losing the bridge severed a key link between Brighton Heights, Riverview Park and the Perry North neighborhood.
“I really don’t go to the park anymore, because it’s not easily accessible anymore to walk to,” said Leslie Klimko, 49, of Brighton Heights. “At least a pedestrian bridge, I’d be fine with that.”
Councilwoman Darlene Harris of Spring Hill, who represents the North Side, advocated for years to rebuild the bridge for motorized traffic. Davis Avenue residents closest to the bridge have opposed reconstruction because of increased traffic. Others argued in favor of a new span.
Harris voted in favor of the grant application, but said she would rather have a bridge that police cars, ambulances and fire trucks could cross.
Masterson said a pedestrian bridge would provide critical access to the park and increase park usage. The 259-acre green space once had three entrances, including Davis Avenue, but is now down to two: Riverview and Mairdale avenues.
The bridge abutments and at least one of the old bridge piers could be used for a lighter constructed pedestrian bridge, Masterson said.
“It’s going to be way lighter than a structure where you’ve got a layer of concrete, or a layer of asphalt, sitting on top,” he said, suggesting the decking could be made of wood. “You wouldn’t need all that stuff.”
He said the bridge is one of three major projects park supporters are working to complete. The others are relocation of the city’s Department of Public Works District 1 maintenance headquarters from inside the park and a major Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority green infrastructure stormwater project, including swales, retention ponds and stream work, that would reduce flooding in the Woods Run neighborhood.
Gilman said the city doesn’t have estimates yet on what it might cost to build a pedestrian bridge, and he wouldn’t speculate on the likelihood of one actually being built. He said the mayor supports the project.
“Until I know what an engineering study says, it would be hard for us to commit to the next step, but our preliminary analysis suggests that an engineering study would come back with a very feasible plan,” he said.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .