Ready, set, dig: Bigelow closure one month away


Wu Caiyi | Staff Photographer

Bigelow Boulevard will be closed between Forbes and Fifth avenues from Nov. 1 to Aug. 15, 2020.

By Natalie Frank, For The Pitt News

Julia Case, a sophomore biology major, just learned she is one of many Pitt students who will have to take a detour on her daily commute to class starting next month. 

Bigelow Boulevard will be closed between Forbes and Fifth avenues from Nov. 1 to Aug. 15, 2020, as part of a $23.7 million reconstruction of both Bigelow and the William Pitt Union driveway, financed by Pitt in partnership with the commonwealth and the City.

Case said the project will “100%” affect the time it takes to get to her classes.

“I’m all kinds of pissed,” Case said. “I have a lot of classes in Cathy.”

Among the improvements in the project’s first phase, lasting between November and December, is replacement of aging utility lines and other major infrastructure improvements. Construction and closures will then grow to include the William Pitt Union from December to June 2020, when utility work will continue and landscaping and streetscaping will begin.

The final phase of the project, slated to happen from June to August 2020, includes general landscaping, plaza and road upgrades along Fifth and Forbes avenues, in addition to Bigelow Boulevard and the WPU.

The project plans to improve safety and traffic flow in the area by expanding crosswalks and sidewalks and improving bus stop areas. Accessibility between the Cathedral and the William Pitt Union will also be “significantly improved.”

The Bigelow project also adds new green spaces in front of the WPU and energy efficiencies — the sustainability system being installed will “manage rainfall through sustainable landscaping practices.”

Pitt spokesperson Kevin Zwick said the project will redesign a key part of Pitt’s Oakland campus.

“The overall design will create a welcoming, appealing pathway to Schenley Plaza, the Oakland business district and the Oakland community, as well as providing a flexible new space for student activities and programming outside the William Pitt Union,” Zwick said.

Due to the construction, the mid-block crosswalk between the Cathedral of Learning and the William Pitt Union will be closed, and the students will only be able to cross Bigelow at either crosswalk located at the corners with Forbes or Fifth avenues. Pitt shuttle stops located on Bigelow Boulevard will be moved to alternate locations.

Zwick said the University has been working with numerous community organizations on new shuttle routes, which will be published soon.

“The Bigelow Block Routing Plan will be available next week that will provide a clear, cohesive routing plan to navigate transportation, including bus stop, shuttle stop and ADA locations during this period,” Zwick said.

Despite the alternatives Pitt will be providing, some students are not thrilled that Bigelow will be closed during the middle of the academic year.

Paige Wheeler, a junior developmental psychology major, said she thinks there could have been better timing for the project that did not have to interfere with the school year.

“Couldn’t [the project] have been a rush project they do in the summer?” Wheeler said.

Zwick said the project was timed so that the most extensive work will occur during the summer months to minimize disruptions and ensure completion before Welcome Week 2020.

The project will not only affect student life at Pitt, but also vendors that frequent the area.

Chaz Bonasorte, the longtime owner of The Pittsburgh Stop, a Pitt clothing stand on the corner of Bigelow Boulevard and Forbes Avenue, will have to relocate or downsize his shop during the construction.

“We were told we would be allowed to stay, but we might have to make [the shop] smaller, so I’ll just adjust to whatever the University wants,” Bonasorte said.

After operating the shop for 31 years, Bonasorte does not think the construction will have a negative effect on business and is remaining positive that his shop will not be affected too much during the nine-month period.

“Maybe April to May or May to June when all that is done, I might have to go across the street for a month,” Bonasorte said.

Bonasorte said the project will create a nice area that will positively affect the daily lives of students on campus once completed.

“I think the project is going to be beautiful for the campus,” Bonasorte said. “It’s going to be nice for the students.”