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Hazelwood residents welcome new traffic-calming measures as part of Sylvan Ave. Trail plan

The Sylvan Avenue Trail would sit alongside the Hazelwood Greenway, protected woodlands that extend over 183 acres.
Jillian Forstadt
90.5 WESA
The Sylvan Avenue Trail would sit alongside the Hazelwood Greenway, protected woodlands that extend over 183 acres.

The City of Pittsburgh plans to bring traffic calming measures to key streets in Hazelwood over the next year, as the first phase of a plan to build a new walking and biking trail in the neighborhood.

The city met with neighborhood residents Wednesday night to discuss the planned Sylvan Avenue Trail, a greenway alternative to high-speed traffic on Second Avenue and Irvine Street. The trail would run on a currently closed portion of Sylvan Avenue that stretches from Home Rule Street to Greenfield Avenue.

The city received $1.7 million from the State of Pennsylvania for the plan earlier this year.

The Peduto administration included a Sylvan Ave. trail as part of their plans to create the Mon-Oakland connector, a self-driving shuttle designed to run from Hazelwood through Greenfield and into Oakland. The Gainey administration shelved the shuttle plans earlier this year, after years of community protest.

According to DOMI, the trail won’t be finished until 2024 at the earliest.

But as part of the project’s first phase, the city will make street repairs and add traffic safety measures along Sylvan and Hazelwood Avenues. Representatives with Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure say that work, overseen by PennDOT, is expected to be complete by November 2023.

And it was phase one’s traffic calming measures, not the greenway, that garnered the most approval from attendees at the town hall held last night at the Propel Hazelwood school.

Many of those offering public comment called for additional road safety measures throughout the area, citing the death of a 6-year-old boy on a bicycle hit by a driver in Hazelwood this spring.

City Councilor-elect Barb Warwick echoed that feeling. The Democrat won the special election to replace Corey O’Connor as the Pittsburgh City Councilor for District 5 and will soon represent Hazelwood.

“As a conversation about this project that is nice to have, we’re getting the must-haves,” Warwick said.

City leaders say they added safety improvements to the trail development plan after receiving feedback from residents at a meeting in April.

DOMI plans to implement safety measures, including narrowing Hazelwood Avenue by adding a median, a raised crosswalk and shared bike lanes. Lisa Frank, the city’s chief operating and administrative officer, said that will encourage drivers to slow down and provide safe pathways for pedestrians.

In addition to repaving the road on Sylvan Avenue, the city will redo its sidewalks and driveways, and ensure it meets ADA requirements. According to Mike Panzitta, a project manager for DOMI, the traffic safety measures will be implemented sometime next summer.

A changing neighborhood

Warwick said there is still a lot of mistrust among residents, dating back to the days of the plans for the self-driving shuttle. In a statement Monday, several community groups called the project “an egregious example of DOMI prioritizing support for private development above critical public safety improvements."

Others at the town hall expressed concerns that the project could drum up interest from private developers at the cost of those currently living there.

The trail is close to the former Gladstone Middle School, which is being refurbished into apartments with a number of income-restricted units.

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In August, ElevateBio signed on to be the “anchor tenant” for a planned $250 million facility in Hazelwood Green, the city’s largest mixed-use development.

“You have all of the traffic that will be increasing on Hazelwood Avenue toward Hazelwood Green as that gets built out,” said Hazelwood resident Tiffany Taulton. “I mean that’s at least another 5,000 more people here.”

Taulton, who is also the outreach and sustainability director of the Hazelwood Initiative, said she is happy with the idea of having a calmer, less trafficked way to get to Schenley Park, but urged the city to continue implementing safety improvements as it approves new development projects in the area.

She also encouraged them to work with the URA on its development plans to ensure decisions are made with current residents in mind.

“Please consider the developments around Sylvan Avenue and how this Sylvan Avenue trail will be affected by the increased population by these many potential developments.”

Updated: December 2, 2022 at 9:19 AM EST
This story was updated to clarify the history of the Sylvan Ave. trail.
Jillian Forstadt is an education reporter at 90.5 WESA. Before moving to Pittsburgh, she covered affordable housing, homelessness and rural health care at WSKG Public Radio in Binghamton, New York. Her reporting has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition.