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Pittsburgh’s Four Mile Run slated for millions in improvements

Bob Bauder
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Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto briefed reporters on Nov. 11, 2018, on plans for major infrastructure improvements to the city’s Four Mile Run area nestled between Oakland, Squirrel Hill and Greenfield.

Pittsburgh is moving ahead with plans to overhaul a stormwater system that’s caused flooding for decades in South Oakland and Greenfield, Mayor Bill Peduto said Wednesday.

Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday unanimously authorized the Peduto administration to secure agreements totaling a maximum $1.3 million for final design of green infrastructure and other amenities in Four Mile Run, including a trail and road that would accommodate bikes, pedestrians and electric shuttles or autonomous vehicles between Hazelwood and Oakland.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has committed $40 million to the project as part of its federally required stormwater management plan, according to spokesman Will Pickering. Peduto has set aside a total of $23 million in 2019 and 2020, according to the city’s 2019 capital budget.

“We’re doing two things simultaneously,” Peduto said. “We are creating an entire green infrastructure plan for Schenley Park that will alleviate the flooding that they see throughout the hollow and throughout (Four Mile Run). As we’re doing that plan we’re also looking along the public right of way in order to be able to create a limited access mobile transportation system for Hazelwood.”

The project would directly impact residents of South Oakland’s Panther Hollow section and a Greenfield neighborhood known as The Run centered on Saline Street. Both areas have been plagued for decades with flooding during heavy rain.

Residents support the stormwater management plans, but some believe the road and trail would disrupt the secluded neighborhoods.

“The main focus should be on the flood mitigation,” said Carlino Giampolo, who splits time between Hawaii and his family homestead in Panther Hollow. “They should abandon the plans for building the road through the two neighborhoods. It would be very detrimental to the neighborhoods.”

The road is a small part of the project, but Peduto said it’s critical for the development of the 178-acre Hazelwood Green development formerly known as Almono. The former LTV Steel mill property is owned by three prominent Pittsburgh foundations and slated for redevelopment as a green, high-tech center with space for housing, offices and recreation.

Peduto said Hazelwood Green provides an outlet for high-tech industry flowing from Oakland universities that has little room to grow in Oakland. The road and trail would parallel Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks running from Oakland to the Monongahela River and be limited to shuttle traffic, Peduto said.

“We believe the impact to be minimal, if any, and the benefit being that instead of all the pressure being placed on Oakland we can now develop Hazelwood…,” the mayor said. “We need to have a release valve for the potential growth that Pittsburgh is seeing. Otherwise we’re going to end up with a neighborhood of Oakland that is oversaturated and a lost opportunity for Hazelwood ever to be redeveloped.”

The green infrastructure plans are much larger in scale. They include restoring former streams that carry a combination of stormwater and sewage draining into Four Mile Run from Oakland and Squirrel Hill through pipes that are too small and dump more than 400 million gallons annually into the Monongahela River.

Pittsburgh is under a federal mandate to reduce the amount of tainted water entering the river.

Preliminary plans call for the dredging and enlargement of Panther Hollow Lake, wetlands in Junction Hollow running between Panther Hollow and The Run and multiple green infrastructure projects in Schenley Park, which sits above the two neighborhoods.

“The green infrastructure’s my biggest thing,” said Councilman Corey O’Connor of Swisshelm Park, whose district includes a large portion of Four Mile Run. “That’s the biggest win for the neighborhood because the flooding that happens down there when it rains is just horrible.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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