|Owner:||City of Pittsburgh|
|Construction Company:||Fay, S&B USA Construction|
|Project Status:||Completed in November 2021|
This high-profile project involved the building of a ‘Cap’ structure (bridge with a 225’ x 225’ deck) on top of the I-579 roadway and interchange ramps, which include a three-acre community park. This project included 14 phases of traffic for demolition, substructure construction, and superstructure construction work. Specific work also includes caissons, micropiles, utility integration, excavation, concrete placement, drainage installation, landscaping preparation, and decorative signage. Quantities include the installation of more than 1,000,000 pounds of rebar, 126 box beams, each weighing 140,000 lbs., along with 1,800 LF of curved architectural walls on top of the deck structure, 50,000 SF of reinforced architectural sidewalks and 14,000 LF of micropiles to support the abutments.
The Hill District was a vibrant cultural center for black residents that had easy pedestrian access to Downtown until the urban renewal of the 1960s and I-579 divided the two areas. The Cap Project aims to reconnect the Hill District and Pittsburgh’s Downtown by repairing the concrete divide that led to social and economic dislocation. Crosstown Boulevard, later I-579, separated the two neighborhoods with retaining walls and loud traffic. Even after the Civic Arena was demolished in 2011, parking lots kept the two neighborhoods apart. These parking lots will be part of later development in connection with the Cap project. The Cap project works to heal past social injustice while incorporating local culture, art, and sustainability. To design Frankie Pace Park, community sessions and design reviews were held to receive input from Hill District residents and stakeholders. From this input, six key themes were chosen for the park: water, green, destination, music, seating, connection.
Art in the park incorporates these six themes with story walls depicting the lives of important Hill District community figures; Martin Delany, an abolitionist, educator, and journalist; and Frankie Pace, a community organizer, and business owner. Signage around the park narrates the park’s story and shows off amenities and art. A music-themed outdoor classroom featuring a garden provides a place for learning. As a part of the stormwater management system, there is a water feature that benefits not only the sustainability of the project but park visitors as well.
The Cap project has improved safety for pedestrians and bicyclists while providing upgrades to the surrounding area. The sidewalk along Webster Avenue Bridge was removed due to its poor condition and the pedestrian crosswalk at Bigelow Boulevard and Chatham Street was upgraded. The paths in the park are fully ADA accessible and path lighting helps to provide safety to park users. Benches and resting areas provide comfortable seating and add to the public amenities of the park. In addition to sidewalk upgrades, a new path to the Steel Plaza subway station and a new bus stop on Centre Avenue allow for safer access to public transportation.
Attention to sustainability is easy to see throughout the park’s three beautiful acres. The park lawns work to catch stormwater that runs off I-579 and can absorb six inches of rainwater. Trench drains work alongside runoff management to collect storm water and direct it towards the six rain gardens in the northwestern area of the park. The rain garden and lawn allow the runoff to evaporate or get absorbed by plants or soil, therefore reducing the amount of stormwater runoff to the sewer system. Shade from the trees planted will diminish heat from the pavement and aid in minimizing the energy needed to cool down nearby buildings. Along with the new trees planted, there are 4,000 new plants in the park.
After the Hill District was disconnected from Downtown, the community lost a significant amount of its peak population. The remaining population experiences high unemployment compared to the regional average. More than half of residents rely on public transportation or walking to get to work. The Cap project provides a safe path to reach Downtown, opening up Hill District residents to more job opportunities and a reliable way to access them. This ties into two major measures for the project’s success, which are an increased amount of access to jobs and developing the Hill District to benefit current residents.