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PennDOT offers four options for Route 28

By David M. Brown
Tuesday, July 15, 2003

State transportation officials on Monday unveiled two proposals for widening Route 28 that would spare the historic St. Nicholas Church on the North Side.

Two other proposals still under consideration, however, put the 100-year-old building in the path of a wrecking ball. Pittsburgh City Council in 2001 approved a historic designation for the church, which belongs to the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. The historical designation doesn’t rule out demolition of the building, but it complicates the process.

Engineers from the state Department of Transportation yesterday outlined four remaining alternatives for the project during a briefing for public officials on a study of estimated costs and the feasibility of the proposals.

“This at least … gives some viable alternatives for public consideration,” said Edward Pugh, an aide to state Sen. Jack Wagner, a Beechview Democrat. Pugh was among about two dozen municipal representatives and legislative aides who attended the session at the state Department of Environmental Protection offices on Washington’s Landing in Pittsburgh.

To present the four alternatives to the public, PennDOT will hold an open house Wednesday from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Three Rivers Rowing Association boathouse, 300 Waterfront Drive, also on Washington’s Landing.

The road project, expected to cost between $140 million and $200 million, is expected to unclog traffic along a 2-mile corridor and make Route 28 safer by separating southbound and northbound traffic and widening the existing lanes. Federal highway funds are expected to cover about 80 percent of the cost.

An alternative still being considered that would spare St. Nicholas Church — site of the first Croatian Roman Catholic parish in the Western Hemisphere — is a modified version of a plan developed by George R. White, chairman of the transportation committee of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

“You live again to fight another day,” White said when told PennDOT had advanced a version of his plan.

The plan — which involves elevating the highway above railroad tracks that run adjacent to Route 28 — would be the more expensive of the alternatives, according to PennDOT’s estimates. It would cost about $200 million. The next closest alternative would cost about $160 million.

“I don’t know what the politicians will decide, but the cost is close enough … that it merits public debate,” White said.

Other alternatives include:

Construction that cuts into the hillside with terraces in the Troy Hill area of the North Side, cutting a swath through properties along Route 28, including the church, the Millvale Industrial Park and Feilbach Street in Millvale.

Construction that would cut less into the hillside but would cause railroad tracks to be moved, as well as demolition of the church and industrial park.

Construction of an “urban artery” that would be more narrow than the other alternatives because it would have only 2-foot gutters, instead of 10-foot shoulders. This plan would avoid the church.

All options include four 12-foot lanes, with auxiliary lanes for traffic moving to and from the 31st Street and 40th Street bridges, said Thomas C. Fox, an assistant district engineer with PennDOT. A key element of the project is to keep northbound and southbound traffic from being stopped by traffic signals which make it possible for other vehicles to use the bridges.

Construction is not expected to start before 2008. The project is slated to be completed in 2011.

David M. Brown can be reached at or (412) 380-5614.

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

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