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Pittsburgh's rubber ducky: from 'Sesame Street' to Smithfield Street

Written by Jacob Quinn Sanders on .

It's ridiculous, the duck. The giant, absurd duck ducking its way upriver toward Pittsburgh. 

So many people are so excited and I have no idea why. 

Maybe it's as basic as childhood. As "Sesame Street." You hear that song in your head already, don't you? Ernie, all by his lonesome, singing to his cherished bathtime friend.

Suffice it to say that song's been stuck in my general cranial area. Twitter, Facebook -- anywhere on the Pittsburgh internets, really -- are full of images of and stories about that duck. People planning to see the duck. Or who loathe the duck. Or search themselves to comprehend the duck.

And all I can think of is that song.

So here it is again for the first time, reimagined for Pittsburgh. You're welcome?

Rubber ducky, you’re the one

You give yinzers lots of fun

Rubber ducky, Pittsburgh’s awfully fond of you

 

Rubber ducky, hi n’at

Without you our Three Rivers’re kinda flat

Rubber ducky, there ain’t nothin’ too jaggy ‘bout you

 

Every day when I

Drive ‘cross the ‘gheny and Mon

I see you smiling like the Pirates won

Big and yellow and tubby

(rub-a-dub-dubby)

 

Rubber ducky, you’re so great

We love you more than a Kennywood date

Rubber ducky, Pittsburgh’s awfully fond of you.

 

rubber-duck-giant original 

 

Rubber ducky, you’re the one

 

You give yinzers lots of fun

 

Rubber ducky, Pittsburgh’s awfully fond of you

 

 

 

 

 

Rubber ducky, hi n’at

 

Without you our Three Rivers’re kinda flat

 

Rubber ducky, there ain’t nothin’ jaggy ‘bout you

 

 

 

 

 

Every day when I

 

Drive ‘cross the ‘gheny and Mon

 

I see you smiling like the Pirates won

 

Big and yellow and tubby

 

(rub-a-dub-dubby)

 

 

 

 

 

Rubber ducky, you’re so great

 

We love you more than a Kennywood date

 

Rubber ducky, Pittsburgh’s awfully fond of you

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The danger of teens driving teens

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

 

teencrash

A new study focuses on the danger of teens driving teens.

Released today by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, it reports that drivers ages 15 to 17 are about eight times more likely than drivers ages 18 to 24 to have a fatal crash if teenage passengers are in the vehicle.

There has been an upward trend in such fatalities in the past 10 years, even though overall crash deaths for younger drivers have decreased, the authors said. From a news release:

Researchers did not explore reasons behind the upward trend. However, the study points out that the 10-year period of analysis essentially mirrors the time when text messaging grew from an occasional activity to a practice that now largely defines youth culture.

In addition, research by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association shows that speeding became a more common factor in teen-driver fatal crashes during that decade.

“Total teen fatal crashes per year declined, but the relative risk for young drivers carrying teen passengers actually increased substantially – at this same time, text messaging exploded in American society,” says Russell Henk, a TTI Senior Research Engineer and primary author of the study. “We can’t scientifically state that there’s a direct link between those two things yet, but it seems reasonable to suspect a connection.”

The full report is here. Pennsylvania since 2011 has limited the number of teenage passengers who can ride with holders of junior licenses to one, not counting family members.

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Oliver Avenue has been closed to thru traffic between Wood and Smithfield streets this week because of a water main break near the old Saks Fifth Avenue that damaged underground utilities. This has proven to be a royal pain for transit riders because traffic from the parking garage on Oliver must exit on Wood, where several South Hills buses operate. The Port Authority says it will take at least until Monday morning for Duquesne Light to finish repairs and backfill the hole in the street. A handful of bus routes that use Oliver are on detour.

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The 36th running of the Richard S. Caliguiri Great Race is on Sunday morning and will close streets Downtown and in Oakland and Squirrel Hill. Information for runners, spectators and those who wish to avoid the entire thing will appear in Saturday’s print edition.

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There’s lots more to look out for in your weekend travels (see below) but no closure of the Squirrel Hill Tunnels — just the usual morning lane closures that end by 10 a.m.

menatworkThe Liberty Bridge will have lane closures all weekend in both directions to allow a contractor to remove pavement and get a look at the condition of the deck structure. The fun starts at 10 p.m. Friday and restrictions will lift no later than 6 a.m. Monday.

Washington Road-Route 19 in Mt. Lebanon will have lane closures as work there continues. Traffic in the northbound lanes will be shifted to the southbound side, with one lane open both ways, from Connor/Gilkeson Road to Alfred Street from 10 p.m. Friday to approximately 10 a.m. Saturday. At 10 p.m. Saturday, southbound traffic moves to the northboard side with one lane open both ways until 6 a.m. Sunday. Lane closures also will occur on Connor and Gilkeson near the Route 19 intersection as crews place pavement markings.

Replacement of a grade crossing will cause a detour on the Red Line this weekend. The Dormont Avenue crossing will be replaced, with the detour in effect in both directions from 7 p.m. Friday through the end of service Sunday. Red Line service will detour via the Blue Line between Overbrook Junction-Willow and South Hills Junction. A rail shuttle will operate between Overbrook Junction and Dormont. Bus shuttles will operate between Dormont and Fallowfield. Another rail shuttle will connect Shiras and South Hills Junction.

So, if we’ve got this straight, here is the itinerary for a ride from Mt. Lebanon to Downtown: board train, ride to Dormont, switch to bus shuttle, ride to Fallowfield, board rail shuttle to South Hills Junction, transfer there to inbound Red Line train. Easy peasy!

Parking restrictions and changes to traffic patterns on Dormont Avenue will be posted during the work. Part of the lower lot of Dormont park-n-ride is closed through Oct. 6 for staging of construction equipment.

Bridge inspection will close a lane of the outbound Parkway East where is crosses Swinburne and Frazier streets in Greenfield from 6 a.m. to noon Saturday. No restrictions inbound.

The Roberto Clemente Bridge in Downtown Pittsburgh will be closed from noon to 10 p.m. Friday. A 40-foot rubber duck will be placed in the river. We are not making this up.

duck

Pitt’s homecoming festivities will close Bigelow Boulevard between Forbes and Fifth avenues from 6 p.m. today to 2:30 a.m. Saturday for a fireworks extravaganza and from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for staging of buses to haul the student body to Heinz Field for a gridiron tilt with the University of Virginia.

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Hustle and versatility = 5-year success

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

foodshoppe
Five years ago, the little food market on Northumberland Street in Squirrel Hill changed hands.
 
John Ruggieri had been in the grocery business since he was a 12-year-old boy and decided to retire in his mid-50s rather than die on the job as his father had. He found capable buyers in Joya Burkholder and James Devers (above).
 
The business partners of the newly named Food Shoppe are celebrating their fifth anniversary in a business that's tough enough when it's on the beaten path. This one, several blocks from the Murray-Forbes corridors, shares a block with a dry cleaner and a police and fire station.
 
This week through Saturday, the Food Shoppe offers lunch specials, and tonight is the anniversary party, with a special 5-7p cook-out and half-priced grilled items. Turner Dairy will be giving tea samples, Nicky D will be making pizzelles and Gary Langer, the man behind Uncle Gary’s Peppers, will trot out his array of items for the public to sample.
 
When I reported on the store’s transition in 2008, the storefront, which is set way back off the sidewalk, did not have cafe tables out front. These tables have filled up with lunch customers since the new owners added them for outdoor lunch grills.
 
Joya said the Food Shoppe has expanded its customer base in large part by offering more prepared foods such as soups and entrees made in the store. “Over half our business is prepared foods,” she said.
 
You can still find the can-and-box staples that include canned peaches, ketchup, toilet paper and garbage bags. But the attractions clearly are the deli counter and prepared food section. Unlike in many small markets, you can find shallots, leeks, fresh ginger root, asparagus and blueberries in this one.
 
Asked if they would do it again if they had known what they know 5 years ago, they paused and laughed. “I would,” said James, “and maybe she wouldn’t.”
 
“It’s just such a complicated beast,” Joya said, describing the juggling act of ordering, baking, cooking, keeping inventory moving without running out, keeping fresh items fresh, marketing prepared items for fast sales and scheduling catering jobs.
 
“We were lucky to make it through 2008” and the subsequent economic scare, James said. “We have grown, but there are peaks and valleys” with seasonal upticks for Jewish and Christian holidays and the seasonal vagaries of produce availability.
 
“It took us at least two years” to get into the rhythm, Joya said.
 
The store’s as pretty as it was when John Ruggieri ran it, without the beautiful Middle Eastern carpet. It stocks baked goods from Prantl’s right by the cash register. There’s a pizza counter where the pies are made on site. The produce is fit for a photo shoot. 
 
Some reconfigurations of the old store have reduced the aisle space, including several indoor tables.
 
The Food Shoppe’s audience is largely affluent residents who live nearby, but the owners see a number of people who ware working in the neighborhood — electricians, plumbers and gardeners — for lunch. It’s the only place within blocks where you can get a prepared meal.
 
“But we hear people say that they’ve lived here for several years and didn’t know we were here,” Joya said. “I think a lot of people who do know don’t know what we have. We’re not a dinky little store.”
 
The secret to their five years and counting? “Hustle and versatility,” she said.  “That’s what has kept us going.” 

 

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Discovering the 'burgh step by step

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

 Slopessteps

Anna J. Cawrse, a landscape designer at the Design Workshop in Denver, visited Pittsburgh last fall in part to participate in the annual Step Trek event in which people traverse the public steps of the South Side Slopes. This year is it Oct. 5. Find out how to sign up and trek here
 
During her studies at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, she had taken a class called "Shrinking Landscapes." Each student was assigned to choose for study a city that had done the post-industrial swoon.
 
“I selected Pittsburgh, not by chance but from the persuasion of a very passionate University of Pittsburgh alum,” she wrote in a piece she titled “Paper Streets of Pittsburgh.” “She was the first person to introduce me to the innovation and resilience of this adaptive city.
 
Part of the assignment was to create a guide or game “that reveals a less-known aspect of the city,” she wrote. “As my research of Pittsburgh progressed, so did my appreciation of the city. I applied [for] and was awarded the Penny White grant at Harvard to come to Pittsburgh, walk the steps, and visit with the South Side Slopes Association.” 
 
Pittsburgh has 712 sets of public steps, more than any other city in the country. Cincinnati is the next closest with 400. San Francisco, with 168, rounds out the top three.
 
Here’s Anna:
 
“My final project for the Shrinking Landscapes class was a map highlighting all of the steps of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods and a set of collector cards for each staircase. Together the map and collector cards recast the steps dealing with the steep slopes as a challenging game. If a partaker climbed all of the steps in Pittsburgh, they would have nearly climbed Mt. Everest.
 
“It was through this class and assignment that I immediately realized that Pittsburgh is taking on a new identity. This tough, industrial and sports-crazed town is being looked to for its repurposing and adaptive attitude. Yes, Pittsburgh is considered one of America’s shrinking cities, and yes, Pittsburgh is still climbing out of that time, but it is creating a strong community that embraces its past while transforming for its future.
 
“The South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association is a prime example of a group that is dedicated to preserving these pieces of historic infrastructure for future generations. Their mission goes beyond maintenance to focus on the community that is directly linked by the steps and to create awareness of this unique feature for the rest of Pittsburgh. They host events throughout the year that range from cleaning up parks, removing invasive weeds, creating community gardens, lighting the stairs and their main event, Step Trek. This event takes participants on varying routes of difficulty throughout the neighborhood via several different sets of South Side steps.
 
“Two friends joined me for Step Trek last year. Even though both had lived in Pittsburgh for years, this was the first time they had heard of and participated in the Step Trek. I was struck by how many times they said ‘I had no idea this was here’ as we walked up and down the stairs.”

photo by Anna Cawrse

 

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Groups try to push Legislature on transportation

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

Transportation advocates are keeping the heat on the Legislature to pass a comprehensive transportation funding bill this fall.

The American Society of Civil Engineers, Pittsburgh section, pulls no punches with this front-page article in its September newsletter.

asce

On Tuesday, scores of business and labor organizations, in a display of unity between groups accustomed to battling one another, gathered in Harrisburg to release a letter urging lawmakers to act.

business

labor

And from today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, this editorial urges the House to get moving on the issue.

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menatwork

The Squirrel Hill Tunnels will be open this weekend.

Inbound traffic on Route 51 will be restricted to one lane at times from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today through Friday from Stewart Avenue to Maytide Street while crews from Duquesne Light trim trees.

Cleaning of the inbound Fort Pitt Tunnel will cause one lane to close at 10 p.m. today and Thursday. Work wraps up by 5 a.m. both days.

Lane closures are possible on Noblestown Road at Scotts Run Road in Collier from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through Tuesday.

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