Oakland upgrades planned


Some Oakland residents envision a safer future for pedestrians along Fifth and Forbes… Some Oakland residents envision a safer future for pedestrians along Fifth and Forbes avenues.

A group of community activists and organizations met Monday evening in Alumni Hall to discuss design proposals for improved pedestrian safety along 11 intersections in the Oakland neighborhood.

The 11 intersections include Forbes Avenue’s junctions with Mckee Place, Meyran Avenue, Atwood Street, Oakland Avenue and Bouquet Street. The other six intersections include the junctions from Thackeray Street and Mckee Place.

The improvements would include curb extensions along these intersections, as well as improved lighting and pedestrian countdown displays on the traffic lights. These would be similar to the ones in place near the new Schenley Plaza.

Construction is slated to begin sometime in the spring of 2007.

Other proposed changes include expanding the pedestrian island at Desoto Street and Fifth Avenue, as well as physically separating the bus lane from the rest of traffic with a small, raised median.

Patrick Hassett, an assistant director of the Bureau of Engineering for Pittsburgh, presented the designs to members of the Oakland Community Council, the Oakland Transportation Management Association and the University, among others.

But he warned that the final design would be finished soon, and that once construction efforts begin, there would be no turning back.

“Once I start withdrawing money then it’s all systems go,” Hassett said.

Nathan Hart, the president of the Oakland Community Council, said that he was pleased with the local effort to procure what amounts to around $1.5 million in federal money, obtained through various state and federal grants.

“Given the incidence of accidents and the amount of traffic, they were able to put together a pretty good argument for improvement,” Hart said.

“I think if your needs are great enough then there will be money for you,” Hart said, although Oakland’s economic importance to the city was probably a significant boost to getting money for the project.

Hart also noted the University’s involvement in the project and how Oakland residents and Pitt haven’t had the best working relationship in the past.

“There has been much more of a collaborative effort in recent years,” Hart said.

According to the Oakland Transportation Management Association, the University pledged up to $250,000 in matching funds for the design and engineering phases of the project. The University could not be reached for comment.

Mavis Rainey, the executive director of the OTMA, said that the project will enhance safety in the same vein as Schenley Plaza, and that these improvements will complement both the commercial area of Oakland and the Plaza.

“This project just enhances that part of the area,” Rainey said.

That part of the area, populated by students, hospital workers and patients, and community residents has seen its share of accidents.

On June 10, 2004, someone was hit by a van while crossing Fifth Avenue around Lytton Avenue.

On Nov. 11 and 12, 2004, two students were hit in two consecutive days. One was hit on Forbes Avenue near the Carnegie Library and the other was hit while crossing Bigelow Boulevard.

Another person was hit by a car while crossing Fifth Avenue on Jan. 6, 2005, and another hit while crossing Bouquet Street on Jan. 19, 2006.