Polish Hill Residents Concerned About Baum & Craig Detour Traffic

Aug 31, 2015

Drivers heading westbound on Baum Blvd. will find that they must turn right on Melwood Ave. if they didn't take the Liberty Ave. detour more than half a mile earlier.
Credit Polish Hill Civic Association

Residents of Pittsburgh’s Polish Hill neighborhood have long fought for traffic-calming measures on Melwood Avenue, which many drivers regard as a convenient shortcut from Shadyside and East Liberty to either the Strip District or Bigelow Boulevard.

But speed bumps and signs directing motorists to slow down are doing little to prevent thousands of cars from detouring through the residential area at rush hour due to construction on Baum and Craig.

“Melwood is a very narrow street, and it always sees an over-abundance of cars (during) rush hour, but this detour that’s currently happening -- the signage is directing cars onto Liberty, but the road closes on Melwood,” said Valerie Testa, vice president of the Polish Hill Civic Association.

Testa, a Polish Hill resident since 2009, said several cars parked along the narrow road were side-swiped on Thursday, the first day of the closure. Parents and pet-owners are concerned about safety implications due to increased traffic, she said.

District 7 City Councilwoman Deb Gross said her office has fielded many calls from Polish Hill residents, and that she is working with PennDOT, the Oakland Transit Management Agency, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and the city’s Department of Public Works to find solutions.

She said they are considering adding a police presence near the construction area and clarifying signage, which currently references a detour for “Route 380.”

“Perhaps if it said Bigelow Boulevard, it would catch more people’s attention, so they know the road they think they’re taking is closed up ahead,” Gross said. “We’re definitely working to try to make the official detour route more effective so we don’t have the unofficial detouring through Melwood.”

PennDOT spokesperson Juliann Sheldon said a request to change the detour signs in such a way has been submitted to the department by the city and that officials are considering it. She also said that an electronic message board reading “Baum Boulevard closed ahead” has been added to the area.

Meanwhile, Testa said she is concerned about how many more drivers are being introduced to the Melwood shortcut.

“Having the road closed there, thousands more people are driving down this road and discovering it, so it concerns me that it might lead to long-term implications beyond the detour and beyond the road work,” she said.

This phase of the construction project is expected to last through late November.

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.