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Environment & Energy

New Bridge Restores Greenspace Near Zoo

For the first time in decades Heth’s Run in Highland Park will soon reach the Allegheny River, and the change is as much due to a transportation project as it is an environmental effort. 

The ravine under the Heth’s Run Bridge on Butler Street was filled in over the years diverting the small waterway and eventually contributing to flooding problems in the area on heavy rain days.  It also formed a barrier between the Pittsburgh Zoo and the river.  When the state decided to overhaul the 100-year-old arch bridge in 2013, Pennsylvania Senator Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) convinced PennDOT to also clean up the ravine.

“Originally this was going to be a $5 million and very boring looking bridge, but because of its historic prominence in the historic Highland Park …. This project grew to be a $13.5 million project, not because of any cost over runs but because there was willingness to accept the sensitive nature of restoring a historic bridge,” Ferlo said.

Ferlo estimates he has been working to get the bridge replaced for 20 years.  The ribbon will be cut on the new bridge Thursday, but work on the ravine will continue for several months.

By opening the ravine the city hopes to connect the zoo’s parking lot with the river.  A portion of the existing lots will be turned into ballfields and green space, which will create a pedestrian connection between several East End neighborhoods and the Allegheny River.

“Its an environmental game changer for the community,” Ferlo said.

As the work continues PennDOT and the city say there will be periodic traffic restrictions. 

Ferlo said the new green space will keep millions of gallons of rainwater from entering into the ALCOSAN sewer system.  ALCOSAN is currently under a multi-billion dollar federal consent decree to reduce the amount of sewage that flows untreated into the region’s rivers on heavy rain days.