Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority officials expect to begin modifying Schenley Park by 2019 to address flooding in Four Mile Run, a section of Greenfield.
The $40.1 million project sets the stage for a $10 million mobility plan that would send on-demand shuttles running between Hazelwood, Greenfield and Oakland via Junction Hollow and Schenley Park.
While more community meetings will be held as details develop, the engineering and design processes for both initiatives are underway.
Two significant combined sewer lines converge in the Run. When it storms, runoff from the surrounding 2,400 acres of hills and trails and land overwhelms Panther Hollow Lake, and then the sewer system. That deluge results in surface flooding and sewage backups in the run.
PWSA wants to fully alleviate those problems by using the park to more effectively handle the flow, said associate project manager Megan Ziegler.
“Looking at ... how do we get the most water to those locations that we want it to,” she said. The plans imagine green infrastructure assets that double as amenities, such as constructed wetlands and a new connection to the Monongahela River that could be an open channel.
The project builds off of planning work completed by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and consultant Phronesis. It's also the largest undertaken by PWSA to date, said Ziegler.
“We wanted to make sure that we were thinking beyond just the park boundaries and those adjacent streets and really looking at a broader shed-level project,” she said.
Ziegler said preliminary design work will likely conclude by the end of 2018 and then move into final design. Permitting for the work could take a while—the state Department of Environmental Protection or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may have to sign off.
Meanwhile, engineering will soon begin on the mobility plan being spearheaded by the city’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure. The Mon-Oakland Mobility Plan would expand trails for pedestrians, cyclists and small shuttles traveling between Oakland and Hazelwood via Junction Hollow and Schenley Park.
The plan has been divisive, freighted by its past: city leaders created a similar transit plan in 2015 without community input. In meetings on the plan’s current iteration, residents have questioned who the on-demand shuttle service would really serve. Some wonder whether there’s truly a need for more transit in the area or if the idea was developed to benefit future development at Hazelwood Green. The riverfront site, formerly known as Almono, has been identified as a potential location for Amazon's second headquarters, if the company were to choose Pittsburgh.
Mobility and Infrastructure Director Karina Ricks said it’s both. She also sees the project as an opportunity to test out a new idea with the potential to benefit the whole region.
“If it’s successful ... there may be more applications for this in other places,” she said, such as “where we have mobility gaps or portions of the county that are just beyond the reach of the existing transit lines.”
While the city would lease and have authority over the shuttles, Ricks said an operator has yet to be identified.