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Groups welcome Route 28 options

By Jim Ritchie
Thursday, July 17, 2003

PennDOT won’t decide until early 2004 whether to rebuild Route 28 through the St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church or around the Pittsburgh-designated historic building.

Those who want to spare the church are happy now that PennDOT is considering two new ways of improving a 2-mile stretch of Route 28 from Millvale to Pittsburgh that would spare the building, in addition to two other plans that would require tearing down or moving the church.

“This is what we have been striving for,” said Robert Sladack, who co-chairs the Preserve Croatian Heritage Foundation that has been fighting to preserve the church, the first Croatian Catholic church in the United States. “Now, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.”

PennDOT hosted an open house Wednesday evening at the Three Rivers Rowing Association Boat House, on Washington’s Landing, putting two new concepts on display that would preserve the church. PennDOT now will select one of four proposals and intends to begin construction in 2008.

More than 100 people turned out for the open house.

“It’s difficult,” said Tom Fox, the assistant district engineer at PennDOT’s Allegheny County-based District 11 office. “I plan to sit down and look at what everybody said here tonight.”

The fate of the church situated just feet from the southern end of Route 28, also called the Allegheny Valley Expressway, has been the subject of a heated dispute. Early designs put the new road through the church property, which upset church members and preservationists.

The dispute prompted PennDOT to develop two concepts that spare the church by using elevated lanes.

Of equal concern are the 60,000 motorists who drive Route 28 daily. The project, which is estimated to cost between $140 million and $200 million, would eliminate the traffic signal intersections at the 31st Street and 40th Street bridges that are choke points.

By the time work begins in 2008, PennDOT intends to have finished building a direct connection between Route 28 and Interstate 279, Fox said. He wants construction on the link to begin in about three years.

Those fighting to save the church feel they’re now on the same page as PennDOT.

“We commend PennDOT for their creative solution to Route 28 improvements, their willingness to have open, public discussion and their sensitivity in saving our local heritage,” said a statement from Preservation Pittsburgh.

Aside from the church, there are some residential concerns, especially for people who live in Troy Hill atop the hillside adjacent to Route 28.

“My concern is if my house is going to be impacted by this,” Rita Steinmetz said. “My other concern is the stability of the hillside and the possible noise effects.”

The owner of the Millvale Industrial Park, which sits along Route 28, is unhappy that the two new PennDOT options would spare his 6-acre property, which is home to 12 businesses. Andrew Lang wants PennDOT to buy his property when the stretch of Route 28 is rebuilt.

“I want them to take the building,” Lang said.

Jim Ritchie can be reached at or (412) 320-7933.

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review © Pittsburgh Tribune Review

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