Tell PennDOT where to go with Parkway East

Written by Jon Schmitz on .


376PennDOT wants to hear from you about the Parkway East corridor.

An online survey is being offered for comments about what people like and dislike and suggestions for improvements, as one of the early steps in a comprehensive strategy to improve safety and traffic flow through the corridor. The survey and a project website are here.

A statement on the website says the project “is not just a study. PennDOT is committed to making real improvements in the corridor.”


The average price of a gallon of gas in Western Pennsylvania went up 9 cents last week, reaching $3.65, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. That’s about 20 cents higher than the price in mid-December and 22 cents higher than the current national average. The national average price per gallon is 35 cents below the average at this time a year ago.


PennDOT’s plan to fast-track replacement of at least 500 smaller bridges through a public-private partnership has attracted plenty of interest. Five teams that include some of the heaviest hitters in the international construction world have submitted statements of qualification. The department will evaluate the statements and invite the highest scoring teams to submit detailed proposals this spring.

Here are the entrants:

Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners: Plenary Group, The Walsh Group, Granite Construction Co., HDR Engineering, HNTB Corporation and Infrastructure Corp. of America

Keystone Bridge Partners: InfraRed Capital Partners, Kiewit, Parsons, The Allan A. Myers family of companies, DBi and American Infrastructure

Commonwealth Bridge Partners: John Laing Investments, Fluor, American Bridge Co., Traylor Bros. Inc., Joseph B. Fay Co., STV Inc. and Infrastructure and Industrial Constructors

Keystone Bridge Builders: Macquarie, PCL, Conti Enterprises and Stantec Consulting Services
Pennsylvania Crossings: Meridiam, Lane Construction, AECOM, Trumbull, Wagman Cos. and Cofiroute.



The project to raise the roof of the J&L railroad tunnel at SouthSide Works has copped two awards: It was named the Project of the Year by the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania and received the Diamond Award for Engineering Excellence from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania.

The project increased the vertical clearance in the 130-year-old tunnel, which passes under the appropriately named Tunnel Park, to accommodate double-stack freight trains. It was completed last year and the park surface has been restored.


menatworkRight-lane closures are possible on the Liberty Bridge in both directions from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. weekdays through March 7.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike will be closed in both directions between Butler Valley (Exit 39) and Allegheny Valley (Exit 48) from 11:59 p.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Sunday for removal of beams from one of the old Route 910 bridges that cross the turnpike. Traffic will detour Routes 8, 28, 910 and Freeport Road. UPDATE: THE CLOSURE HAS BEEN POSTPONED FOR ONE WEEK BECAUSE OF BAD WEATHER THAT IS EXPECTED. THE NEW SCHEDULE CALLS FOR CLOSING IT AT 11:59 P.M. MARCH 8 TO 5 A.M. MARCH 9.

Test bore drillings on the bridge that carries Route 136-West Newton Road over Gillespie Run in Elizabeth Township will cause alternating one-way traffic from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through next Wednesday.

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Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian pitches motivation through memes at CMU

Written by Ethan Magoc on .

In 2005, the year he started a microblogging site Reddit with his friend Steve Huffman, Alexis Ohanian had no idea what he was doing.

Evidence: he drew Reddit's ubiquitous robot logo, "snoo," before hashing out the site's mission or direction. "I'm Alexis," he said. "I start companies and draw mascots for them."

He shared this story, all the while harping on the benefits of entrepreneurship, on Tuesday night to a crowd of about 200 people at CMU's McConomy Auditorium. His presentation was in equal parts focused on motivational speaking, Reddit history and power of the Internet.

Oh, and it contained plenty of memes about the divide between digital immigrants and digital natives, who, he said, now possess a huge advantage.

Alexis Ohanian Carnegie Mellon University February 2014 Ethan Magoc Post-Gazette 3

He is an evangelist for learning to write code, calling it "the most valuable skill of this century," though he was largely preaching to the choir at a campus like CMU.

At one point, he asked for a show of hands: "Who is working on a Web project?" Many shot up, and he called to the stage Jackie Vesci, who pitched her Pittsburgh conversation site, 3HourLocal.

He was often self-deprecating in trying to show those in attendance that the road to success is rarely smooth. Besides almost calling Reddit "Snoo" — hopefully prompting the frequent question "What's snoo?" — he also worked toward the end of his college career on an ill-fated startup known as My Mobile Menu.

The acronym? MMM...

Alexis Ohanian Carnegie Mellon University February 2014 Ethan Magoc Post-Gazette 2

While Ohanian is on a nationwide college tour selling his book, he attempted to personalize his pitch with slides like these. With the Tartan mascot, he said, "I was expecting something a little different (than the Scottish terrier)." More like that guy. (Ethan Magoc/Post-Gazette photos)

"I still do not know what I'm doing most of the time," Ohanian said. "There's no paint by numbers for life."

He left the crowd with an old-fashioned, albeit interactive, gimmick. Write down your address and a month-long project or goal you're working on, he said, and leave it with me. In a month, he's paying for the postage and mailing them back.

Alexis Ohanian Carnegie Mellon University February 2014 Ethan Magoc Post-Gazette 4

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Professor: Lay people should help pick bishops

Written by Peter Smith on .

cafardi-3Roman Catholic laypeople should have a role in choosing their bishop, according to Nicholas Cafardi, dean emeritus and professor of law at Duquesne University.

The whole process should be handled with more transparency, said Mr. Cafardi, who formerly chaired the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' National Review Board, which advised bishops on their response to sexual abuse. In fact, he said the abuse crisis itself can partly be traced to an opaque, insider process of picking bishops.

Mr. Cafardi writes in a recent article in U.S. Catholic:

'Pope Francis says that he wants a special kind of bishop for our church—he wants “shepherds who smell of their sheep.” Let us take our Holy Father at his word: Who knows how the sheep smell better than the sheep themselves? No one. So then why not let the sheep ... have a significant say in the choice of our bishops.'

The current process is based on insider recommendations from bishops, up the chain of command to the papal nuncio (diplomatic representative) to the United States and to the pope himself. Priests and some influential and wealthy lay people have an advisory role, but not the lay people as a whole, he writes.

When a candidate is named, he added, the Vatican circulates questions to a select group of those who know him, asking his stances on such issues as same-sex marriage, women priests and abortion -- an agenda that "has given us so many culture warrior bishops," Mr. Cafardi writes. He wonders if, under Francis, such questions as whether the man has a concern for the poor or drives a fancy car will also be asked.

The current system rewards upward loyalty, Mr. Cafardi says.

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Getting a market buzz in Cleveland

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .


Except for the selection of dried beans at Urban Herbs, the Westside Market in Cleveland doesn’t sell anything you can’t find in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. What they have that we don’t have is a grand work of marketplace architecture. 
If we still had the Allegheny Markethouse, people would surely travel to see and shop in it.  That dawned on me on the ride home from a trip to Cleveland over the weekend. 
I marveled at the beauty of the building, built in the early 20th century, with a beautiful vaulted brick ceiling (shown below, left) and generous window light.
The trip prompted many thoughts about what we have and don’t have and led to a rumination on the potential of the Pittsburgh Public Market and the Terminal Building on Smallman Street to be long-term additions to the scene. The terminal building is not a grand work of marketplace architecture, but it’s the closest thing we have to an historic and iconic symbol of the legacy of the Strip. The Terminal Building was the incubator that gave rise to the vibrant retail scene that defines the Strip as we know it today.clevefish
It was the first point of sale — wholesale — before supermarkets took control of their own distribution networks. It remained a wholesale food center until several years ago, when it began to empty because of uncertainty over its future use. When last year the Buncher Co. proposed a riverfront development that would eliminate the western third of the five-block long building, the Pittsburgh Public Market, which established in 2010 in a small portion of the Terminal Building, relocated to 2401 Penn Ave.
It has 20 full-time vendors and six part-time vendors using a little more than 3,000 square feet of the 12,000 that’s available.
cleveCindy Cassell, special projects manager for Neighbors in the Strip, said the public market has recently received county and federal grants to install a shared use commercial kitchen that should give more vendors an incentive to move in. Ventilation hoods are expensive and many of the people who have occupied spaces there are early-in entrepreneurs.
“We think the commercial kitchen will help support them,” she said.
If you want to get your toes into the restaurant market, a license and maintenance fee of a little more than $500 a month, with a connection to utilities and a kitchen, is a great incentive. It will be interesting to see whether the shared commercial kitchen boosts participation in the only public market house Pittsburgh has.
clevepoultryThe Pittsburgh Public Market was and is a laudable venture for Neighbors in the Strip to advocate into being and to manage as the leasor of the building. It was in large part NIS’s brainchild based on visits to the several remaining historic markets within reasonable driving distance, the Westside Market being one.
Pittsburgh’s potential to support a growing public market house and a renovated Terminal Building and the current storefronts of the Strip is an unknown.
“With the planned residential development” by Buncher, “we potentially have a larger local market, and our tourist market grows every year,” Cindy said.  “We did a market study before the [public] market opened and it showed that in a 20 mile radius around Pittsburgh there was a stronger demand for niche food products than the existing supply.” 
As I toured the Westside Market, I caught myself oohing and aahing, wondering why at first and then realizing why — the intensity of consolidation. It is Wholey’s, Penn Mac, Stamolis, Parma Sausage, Sam Bok, Stan’s, Labad’s, La Prima and every farmers’ market all together in one big teeming, gleaming -- and at times overwhelming -- place.
As a Pittsburgher, I love the Strip and think it is more interesting than any marketplace I’ve visited except in the Third World.westsidemarket
I would love to see people flock around vendors packing every available space in the Pittsburgh Public Market and at the Terminal Building if it is developed into a food-oriented regional draw and remain just as devoted to the Strip’s street scene.
I wonder how much we would have to grow -- or how far regionally we would have to draw -- to achieve that kind of massing.
But the certainty I came away with from Cleveland was that a great city needs a great indoor market scene and any city that still has its old-world market house is blessed, lucky, farsighted or all three.
Photos, from the Westside Market, by Paul Nawrocki


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Written by Natalie Bencivenga on .

pop3 490

Pittsburgh POPS!

Over 1,300 of Pittsburgh’s young professional crowd (yes, there are that many of us) enjoyed a night of grooving, drinking, and networking at the Heinz History Center’s 16th annual Poptastic! event on Friday night. The lively evening encompassed all five floors of the History Center, with everyone talking about the excitement of the “fifth floor.”


As I meandered through the impeccably dressed crowd, I overheard several people saying “how the fifth floor is where you want to be.” “Everyone will be on the fifth floor.”


Putting my immediate curiosity aside, I chose to build the suspense leading up to the fifth floor by taking in the scene through the rest of the exhibits first ...


 pop2 490 Burton Morris' Poptastic exhibit. Natalie Bencivenga/Post-Gazette photos


The first floor had live music, food, and was your designated meet-and-greet area where plenty of people were texting, mingling, and trying to locate their friends before heading up. The invitation encouraged guests to dress up like their favorite pop icons, it seemed at first that no one was encouraged. But then, I spotted Amber Fitzgerald and Jamie Moore dressed as Charlie Chaplin and Lucille Ball. They looked fantastic and were happy to pose for a picture.



The second and third floors had plenty of interesting exhibits to take in. As Andy Masich, the president and chief executive officer of the History Center said, “You can enjoy the party, the food, and the music, but if you need to take a breath, come chill out and walk around the exhibits.” I took his advice to heart, and when needing to catch my breath (mostly from choosing to take the stairs in stiletto heels) I wandered off to check out the newest exhibit: Poptastic! The Art of Burton Morris, which was, I must say, colorful eye candy.



The fourth floor was packed with people networking, taking some candid shots in the photo booth, rejuvenating with organic juice shots from Steve Bland’s Savasana Juice Bar (to balance out the vodka, of course!), or indulging in tasty treats from restaurants like Donato’s.


Correction/clarification: This post has been updated to reflect an attendance figure of 1,300 for this event.


Yet, the fifth floor kept calling my name. Organic juice shot in hand, I headed up to see what the fuss was all about. Upon entering, I noted Massage Envy had set up a station to assist tired patrons who must have needed the pampering after experiencing the excitement of the fifth floor. I was intrigued. I could hear music coming from my left and so I headed in that direction, stopping briefly to chat with others who were also excited to experience “the fifth floor” as well.


pop6 490Fifth floor dance party!


Who knew this existed in the History Center? The area had been transformed into a New York-style club, complete with a DJ, dance floor, and plenty of couches to lounge. There were food stations set up with sandwiches, so you could nosh while dancing.


Smiles abound, I had found the heart of this incredible party. The Heinz Center brought the fun, and it was indeed Poptastic!


pop4 490George Jones, Rebecca Mix, Juan Pablo Rubiano #bestspecs

 pop5 490Amber Fitzgerald and Jamie Moore channel pop icons Charlie Chaplin and Lucille Ball

pop7 490Eloho Ufomata and Teresa Walker bringing fabulous pops of color!

pop1 490Andrew Masich (left) and the "Uncorked" committee.

(Top image: An aerial view of the party.)

Correction/clarification: This post was updated to reflect an attendance of 1,300 for this event.


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