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Ideas Sought To Improve Busy Downtown Intersection

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Designing roads in an area that comes to a point, rather than a square grid, is an infrastructure challenge unique to the Golden Triangle that burdens city planners with a bustling intersection joining Stanwix Street, Liberty Avenue, Penn Avenue and Forbes Avenue.

“It’s a really complex intersection with folks often wondering what they should be doing, whether they’re in a car, on a bike or they’re a pedestrian,” said Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, or PDP. “We’re bringing folks who really have a national perspective on safety and walkability together to help us rethink this intersection and this street grid.”

The Walkable and Livable Communities Institute (WALC), a national group aimed at ensuring communities are safe and accessible to all, along with the PDP and the AARP are examining the area over two days. Day one concluded Monday with meetings between visiting groups, city planners, business leaders and residents. They took a walking tour of the intersection to see it from the perspective of a pedestrian.

“If you’re not used to being a pedestrian, you’re used to being on a car or on a bus, you really have no idea what it feels like, what the experience is, how safe it may or may not feel as a pedestrian," said Robert Ping, WALC Institute technical assistance program manager. "Being out and walking on two feet gives you a perspective that you can’t get any other way.”

The AARP is involved because of the concern over the walkability and safety of large intersections for the aging population. A presentation from WALC stated more and more seniors are moving into city centers and away from suburbs, and are looking for walkable, livable areas. Engineers with Florida-based Toole Design Group are expected to draw up plans for what the area could look like based on feedback.

“We really just want to have a good discussion and hopefully some clear sets of potential projects that can be tried out,” Waldrup said. “Maybe in the short term basis we’ll pilot some ways to make this intersection safer and then maybe a longer-term strategy for some capital improvements to this really busy but integral intersection in Downtown.”

WALC has partnered with 40 communities in 23 states in the last five years. Leaders said they are helping communities move away from infrastructure that was built around automobiles and highlighted projects in Burlington, Vt., Southern California and West Palm Beach, Fla.

Meetings continue on Tuesday.