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Yinzerpedia: Squirrel Hill tunnel work, Pittsburgh litter, leaving Pittsburgh

Written by Ethan Magoc on .

Pittsblogh readers seemed to enjoy the first two editions of Yinzerpedia, so we’re bringing it back, albeit on a monthly basis.

And yes, we affectionately call this feature “Yinzerpedia,” because it takes the principle of the crowdsourcing site Wikipedia, but the "crowd" for our purposes is all of yinz.

On tap this week: tunnel repairs, littering and leaving Pittsburgh.

Question: When will the Squirrel Hill tunnel be done and what is their work schedule? (March 25)

Squirrel-Hill-Tunnels Darrell Sapp Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

(Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette)

This originally came to the Post-Gazette from Brian Horgan on Twitter, and we redirected to Jon Schmitz, our resident traffic expert and reporter.

In other words, hang in there, tunnel commuters.

 

Question: What is the deal with all this litter in Pittsburgh? (April 1)

 

Trash on Mount Washington Robin Rombach Pittsburgh Post Gazette

 

 

You need not rappel down the side of Mount Washington to help beautify the city, as Nick Romaniello of the Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group did at the end of March. (Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette)

 

A visiting Floridian and former Pittsburgh resident first raised the topic in a letter to the editor. He was shocked at the amount of litter in and around the city this time of year.

Many commenters in the thread pointed out that winter tends to shield some of the litter, and once the snow melts, everything from dog waste to beer cans seem pervasive.

Pittsburgh has a complicated history with trash clean-up efforts, as Mila Sanina wrote earlier this year on “The Digs.

We don’t recommend this approach from selltheburgh: “I've made it a habit of telling people that they dropped something when they litter. Once I tossed a woman's mcdonald's cup back into her window when I saw her drop it out. She went ballistic.”

But you can help solve the region’s trash issues in a more constructive way on April 12.

Question: How would you spend your last day in Pittsburgh? (April 8)

Pittsburgh Point State Park at night photo by Rebecca Droke Pittsburgh Post Gazette

(Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)

It’s an interesting thought experiment (not new to Reddit), and many former Pittsburghers had to live it during the 20th century steel industry exodus. The responses highlight residents’ favorite things to do here.

Here’s a list:

  • Kennywood
  • Boating around the rivers and Point State Park
  • Rain-free Three Rivers Arts Festival
  • Visit friends
  • National Aviary
  • Pierogies at Church Brew Works
  • Penguins game
  • Pirates game with walkoff home run and fireworks
  • Primanti’s and Yuengling
  • Drive through the Fort Pitt Tunnel at night
  • Walk the Allegheny River trail east from the stadiums
  • Ultimate frisbee in Highmark Stadium
  • Eating at the Strip District
  • Packing

And, bringing this edition of Yinzerpedia full circle:

  • “...leaving Pittsburgh with like 4 dollars to myname... that way i can run out of gas on my way to the turnpike in the Squirrel Hill tunnels so that one day i can be the CAUSE of all the traffic on the parkway East, not just wondering why its there for no reason in the first place”

Previous Yinzerpedias:

Yinzerpedia: Park'n Eat, Mount Washington and virtual library cards (March 21)
Swimming holes, recycling schedule and Pittsburgh (March 14)

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Churches, bishops respond to school stabbings

Written by Peter Smith on .

 

Churches responded to this morning's stabbing spree at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville in several ways, opening their sanctuaries to those needing a place to regroup, scheduling numerous prayer services for Wednesday evening and hosting counselors for anyone traumatized.
Police have a student in custody who they say injured 20, four critically, with butcher knives at the start of the school day.
Religious leaders are also issuing statements about the attacks.
"It is unfortunate that in our world today more and more people find themselves dealing with circumstances like this," said Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church. "At these times, people of faith are called to seek God’s presence and pray for God to bring healing and wholeness to all those involved."
Bishop Lawrence Brandt said his and the Catholic Diocese of Greensburg's prayers are with "the victims of this morning’s senseless act of violence" and all those affected by it.
"We all suffer when violence shatters lives," he said. "We pray for peace in our homes, our schools, our workplaces and our world. In this penitential season of Lent, we also ask for God’s mercy on the person responsible for this act."

 

 

 

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Few can walk 5 minutes for fresh food

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

market produce
The small neighborhood market has been much on my mind of late, specifically the one I am supporting but more generally because of how important an asset it is in a neighborhood, and how uncommon it is.
 
Giant Eagle, Foodland, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, IGA and all the larger retailers are necessary, and the plethora of options in the Strip make that a regular must-do. But if everyone had the option of a short walk to get some essential groceries, then every neighborhood would have a little store with enough variety to be more than the emergency milk and bread stop. 
 
Sarah Goodyear writes in The Atlantic Cities about a recent analysis of cities that looked at walking distance to fresh food sources. In her article, “In the U.S., a Quick Walk to the Store is a Rare Thing Indeed,” she sets up a scenario familiar to many of us: We are into a recipe when we realize we need a crucial ingredient.
 
The last time that happened to me, I thought I had an egg or two left in the carton. Lucky for me, my neighbor raises hens so I popped next door and got an egg.
 
In the article, Ms. Goodyear poses the question: How long would it take you to walk to get a fresh ingredient? An analysis by Walk Score of 50 of the largest American cities shows a yawning gap between the nine cities that have five-minute access for more than 40 percent of its population and those that don't even serve 30 percent.
 
Pittsburgh's snapshot is reproduced below. The green blobs represent where people have a fresh food source within a five-minute walk:
5min
 
The five-minute standard set by Walk Score is based on a goal that Washington, D.C. has set in its 20-year master plan.
 
I am very lucky to have neighbors who can supply any number of emergency items, but the whole neighborhood is lucky that the Allegheny City Market is about a five minute walk. In the former Doug’s Market, owner Rob Collins has upgraded the inventory enough that his market is my first-option grocery, providing 75 percent of the items on my list.
 
There are too few markets like this in Pittsburgh and throughout the cities studied.
 
The article states:
 
“For 72 percent of New Yorkers, the answer is less than five minutes. But in Indianapolis – or Oklahoma City or Wichita – only 5 percent of residents have a store selling fresh produce within that distance.
 
“Using data from its extensive database, Walk Score ranked the 50 largest U.S. cities to see how they did on access to decent food, using stores that sell fresh produce as a benchmark.
 
“The numbers paint a picture of a dramatically divided nation.”
 
The article reports that Washington, D.C.'s goal is to have 75 percent of its population living within a quarter mile of a healthy food source within 20 years. 
 
Washington is one of the nine cities with top access now but barely cracks 40 percent. New York is #1, of course, with 72 percent of people who have five-minute pedestrian access to fresh food. San Francisco and Philadelphia are the only others in which more than 50 percent of people can walk to buy that crucial egg, or lime or endive, in five minutes.
 
A city's planning goal for greater access comes down to land use and requirements for development, topics that present choppy waters for politicians. It would be interesting to see how Pittsburgh might decide to address this issue, given the sweeping amount of land vacancy in its most food-challenged neighborhoods.
 
Top photo taken at the Allegheny City Market
 
 

 

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Bike escalators for Pittsburgh hills?

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

 

escalator

The Atlantic Cities reports on an innovation that could literally give bicyclists a lift over hilly terrain:

CycloCable works very much like a ski lift. But most of the design structures are placed just below the street surface for a safer and more seamless integration into the road.

To begin, you just push the green button at the “start station” and wait for the first footplate. You then stand up on your bike and put your right foot and all of your weight on the footplate. The launcher at the start station will give you gentle push to accelerate from zero to 1.5 meters per second. The lift can go up to 2 meters per second, handling a maximum of 300 cyclists per hour. It supports inclines of up to 18 percent grade and can extend as long as 1,640 feet.

The first prototype was installed in Trondheim, Norway, in 1993. Since then, it’s become a popular tourist attraction that’s powered more than 200,000 cyclists up a 130-meter hill, with no accidents recorded. The original lift was dismantled in 2012, and replaced a year later with CycloCable, an industrialized version upgraded to meet new safety standards.

Now, POMA Group, the French cableway company behind the CycloCable, wants to sell the idea to other cities around the world.

Pittsburgh has also considered the lift. According to Stephen Patchan, bicycle/pedestrian coordinator at Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning, the cycling community sees the steep terrain as an amenity, not a challenge. But Patchan says it would still be nice to have that kind of assistance for people tired at the end of the day, for example.

A Pittsburgh nonprofit even proposed a bike lift modeled after the one in Trondheim several years ago. But the idea generated some initial questions about liability and wasn’t pursued further.

This time around, liability would still be the primary concern, but not one that can’t be overcome.

Patchan is confident that the cost-benefit of implementing something like CycloCable will be more acceptable as U.S. bike infrastructure systems continue to mature.

“It only takes one smart and cavalier community to figure it out and establish a model for operations and maintenance,” he says.

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In another boost for bicyclists, the state Senate has passed legislation to legalize pedal-assist electric bicycles.

Sponsor Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, issued this statement:

“Our goal is to modernize state law and pave the way for innovation. There are already a growing number of small businesses emerging to meet the demand for this transportation option. However, the continued growth of this industry relies on clearly defining and legalizing these bikes in the state code.

“As we encourage multi-modal forms of transportation, these bicycles offer another option for individuals with mobility issues or for the commuter tackling the hills of western Pennsylvania. I think there are more and more people who will reconsider cycling as a transportation option once they learn about pedal-assist electric bicycles.”

The bill, which goes to the House, defines the bicycles as having operable pedals and a motor of 1 horsepower or less, with a maximum 20 mph speed. The bikes are not motor scooters but are designed to assist the rider with pedaling.

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And still more two-wheeler news, this from Friends of the Riverfront:

The 2014 Three Rivers Heritage Trail Map & Guide was released today. The map has been updated to include the one-mile segment of trail that will connect Aspinwall Riverfront Park to O’Hara through the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority, currently under development. This map is ideal for trail users interested in exploring the Pittsburgh region on the 24-mile riverfront trail system and features an overview of the trail system and detailed maps of the North Side, Downtown and South Side segments.
 
Areas of interest, including business districts, green space, bike shops, cultural attractions, transportation, trail parking and dog parks can also be found.
 
This project was funded by ProBikes, Clearview Federal Credit Union, Eat’n Park, UPMC Sports Medicine, the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta, Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, and Friends of the Riverfront members.
 
The Three Rivers Heritage Trail Map is available free. To request a copy, call 412-488-0212 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . The map can also be found on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail page at www.friendsoftheriverfront.org.

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roadworksign

This week is National Work Zone Awareness Week, and Pennsylvania officials are cautioning drivers that they will encounter more construction than usual this year, as the new transportation funding law ramps up spending by $600 million, to a total of $2.1 billion.

“We are asking drivers to use extra caution in work zones so all of us can get home safely,” said Brad Mallory, PennDOT executive deputy secretary. “With crews working right next to moving traffic, it’s especially dangerous and especially important that motorists obey signs and speed limits.”

According to PennDOT data, there were more than 1,800 crashes in Pennsylvania work zones last year, an increase of about 200 from the previous year.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike will conduct Operation Orange Squeeze, in which troopers stationed in construction trucks use radar to nab speeders. Fines are doubled in work zones, so offenders can kiss several hundred dollars goodbye.

“The State Police will have zero tolerance for unsafe and aggressive work-zone driving.” said Capt. Gregory M. Bacher, commander of Pennsylvania State Police Troop T, the unit in charge of turnpike patrols.

The turnpike plans 62 roadway and bridge construction projects for 2014 at a $1.3 billion cost.

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From the PG’s Liz Navratil, a police training exercise at the ballpark:

Traffic near PNC Park will be restricted Tuesday while Pittsburgh emergency responders and federal officials conduct a training exercise.

Mazeroski Way from General Robinson Street to North Shore Drive will be closed from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and parking there will not be allowed, city public safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler said in a news release. Only local traffic will be allowed on North Shore Drive, at Tony Dorsett Drive, she said.

The city’s Office of Emergency Management, Homeland Security, the Army National Guard, the Ohio State Civil Support Team and PNC Park officials will be training for a hypothetical scenario in which suspicious packages are reported during a World Series game.

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Carnegie Mellon University’s spring carnival will cause road closures and parking restrictions in the area of the campus this weekend. Margaret Morrison Street, Tech Street, Frew Street, Circuit Road and Schenley Drive (Panther Hollow and Schenley bridges included) will be closed from 5 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens will remain open during normal hours. Visitors will need to park on the streets by the Carnegie Library and the surrounding area. Pittsburgh police stationed at barricades will give bus drivers instructions for passenger unloading.

On-campus parking will be limited for those without permits and other visitors all week. Additional parking will be available for $5 (cash only) from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday at the Bob O’Connor Golf Course at Schenley Park, with shuttles running to and from campus. Free parking will be available at East Campus Garage on a first-come, first-served basis on Saturday.

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menatworkThe city will pave the section of McArdle Roadway from from the Liberty Bridge to Arlington Avenue starting at 11 p.m Tuesday and ending by 5:30 a.m Wednesday. Traffic from the inbound Liberty Tunnel will be detoured across the Liberty Bridge and traffic from Arlington Avenue will not be able to access the affected section of McArdle Roadway.

Lane closures are possible on outbound Route 51 between Fairhaven Road and Stewart Avenue in Overbrook and Whitehall from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today through Friday. Cable crews will be installing lines in the area.

Overhead sign improvements will cause intermittent lane closures on the Parkway East after 10 p.m. on weeknights in both directions between the Squirrel Hill Tunnels and Second Avenue, through April 19.

A lane closure is possible on the inbound Parkway North in Ross from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today through Wednesday for emergency repair of a washout.

Bridge construction has changed the traffic pattern on Interstate 79 at Route 422 in Butler County. Southbound traffic now crosses over to the northbound side, with one lane open in both directions. Work and restrictions will continue into the fall.
    
Cleaning in the Liberty Tunnels will close a lane in both directions starting at 10 p.m. today through Thursday. Traffic is restored by 5 a.m. daily.

Center Road in Plum reopened Friday afternoon after being closed since March 25 because of a collapse.

Hunter Road in Penn Hills has been closed between Barger Street and Colorado Street for about four weeks for emergency repairs.

Overnight lane closures have begun on Route 8 in Hampton. Traffic is down to one lane in both directions after 8 p.m. weeknights from the Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange to about 1,000 feet north of Hardies Road. The widening and turn-lane project continues through October.

A section of McKee Road in North Fayette and the Route 22/30 ramps at Oakdale have closed for reconstruction. The closure of McKee Road in the area under the Route 22/30 bridge will continue through April 26.

Alternating one-way traffic is in effect on Snowden Road in South Park between Riggs and Cochran Mill roads from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily through May 17 during utility pole relocation.

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@pgtraffic on Twitter

 

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Another video in Wolfe sisters case

Written by Liz Navratil on .

A prosecutor played nine surveillance video clips at a preliminary hearing today for Allen Wade, the man accused of killing two sisters in East Liberty.

One key clip hit the chopping room floor before we posted the videos on post-gazette.com, in part because the quality of the video made it hard to discern what was happening.

The video was taken from a Midas shop on Whitfield Street, not far from where Sarah Wolfe's lime green car was found parked after the killings.

It's in black and white and a large white bar runs through parts of it. That's common when stores use older security systems that back their feeds up to tape, rather than electronically.

Police said the video shows a person removing a pair of pants. That will prove crucial as the prosecution attempts to connect videos of a person wearing gray sweatpants and a red shirt using Susan and Sarah Wolfe's bank cards to video that police said depicts Allen Wade, 43, of East Liberty, buying cigarettes at a Sunoco station. Police recovered a pen with the word "Iowa State Prison" on it from a trash can at the gas station.

The video from the Midas store was taken not far from a spot where police said they found a pair of gray sweatpants. The probability that DNA samples taken from the waistband and a blood stain found on those pants match someone other than Wade is one in several quintillion, according to a report read in court.

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