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Economy & Business
00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f771360000Keystone Crossroads: Rust or Revival? explores the urgent challenges pressing upon Pennsylvania's cities. Four public media newsrooms are collaborating to report in depth on the root causes of our state's urban crisis -- and on possible solutions. Keystone Crossroads offers reports on radio, web, social media, television and newspapers, and through public events.Our partner stations are WHYY in Philadelphia, WPSU in State College and witf in Harrisburg. Read all of the partner stories here.Pittsburgh’s WQED joins the collaboration as an associate partner. Support for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Industrial Ports Are Evolving And Growing As Waterfront Redevelopment Opens Rivers To The Public

Irina Zhorov
90.5 WESA
Clairton Works, a coke plant operated by U.S. Steel, is one of the largest remaining industrial sites on the Monongahela River. It brings in coal for its operations by train and by barge.

Rob Walters, a riverkeeper, launched his boat across from a staging area for barges on the Monongahela River, about 20 miles upriver from Pittsburgh’s downtown. His first mate, a Portuguese water dog named Rio — meaning river in Portuguese — whimpered in excitement. He counted about 30 barges before he turned on his boat’s engine and headed towards the city.

“Usually the general rule of thumb is biggest boat wins. So the barges really are the rulers of the river,” he said as he navigated between the moving barges.

Before too long, U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke works came into view. U.S. Steel says it’s the largest coke works in the country and in aerial photos it takes up the entire crescent of land that lies in this bend of the Mon River. “My jaw drops every time,” Walters said.

The Clairton plant is part of the Mon Valley Works, a steelmaking operation along the Monongahela River. The various facilities along the riverbanks, as well the barges themselves, are a good reminder of just how industrial the rivers and their banks used to be. But just as other plants in the region have closed, the Mon Valley Works has shrunk. Today, the prior extent of industry's reach can be easy to forget when bicycling along one of the relatively new riverside trails in Pittsburgh or hanging out at Point State Park downtown. Still, they’re not just reminders, they’re active industrial strongholds in the region.

The other two major ports in the state, in Erie and Philadelphia, are also important industrial assets to their cities.

Public river access and recreation are becoming more important on urban waterfronts. But industry still thrives on the water, too. It’s evolving and, actually, in some cities, growing again.

This is part one in a series on waterfront development statewide. Read more of this report at the website of our partner Keystone Crossroads.