Photo: This screenshot from the presentation by Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure shows roughly what the Davis Avenue Bridge will look like once complete. The presenters did note that the bike lanes will likely not run along the edges with pedestrians in the middle as shown, but otherwise the design is mostly accurate. Screenshot by Sean P. Ray
By Sean P. Ray | Managing Editor
Riverview Park fans got their first look at the final design for the planned Davis Avenue pedestrian bridge during a virtual public meeting on Sept. 29.
The bridge will replace a former vehicular bridge which was demolished in 2009 and connected Brighton Heights to Riverview Park.
While city officials did take public feedback from attendees at the meeting, the designs shown represent most of how the bridge will look overall once finished. Should all go according to plan, construction of the bridge is planned to begin in the spring of 2023, and likely finish in the fall of 2023, according to Ryan Whittington, design team project manager with HNTB Corporation, which is working with the city on the project.
The bridge will continue from Davis Avenue and cross over Woods Run Avenue, connecting to the paved trail system that runs throughout the park. As mentioned, the bridge will be pedestrian in nature, allowing for people walking or riding bicycles, but not for motorists.
The planned bridge will have a 12-foot wide pathway for people to cross, and will be designed to look like weathered steel. Lights will be installed along the bride’s railings, ones which will illuminate the bridge path but not spillover onto homes beneath the crossing.
Whittington explained that pieces of the bridge will be built off-site for better quality control. These prefabricated pieces will then be delivered to the bridge site and lifted into place.
The existing stone abutments from the vehicular bridge will remain, as Whittington said inspections found they were sturdy enough to be reused.
“We were happy to report they could indeed carry the loading of a new bridge,” he said.
Improvements will also be made to Davis Avenue and the park loop on either side of the bridge to accommodate the new structure. The width of the road approaching the bridge, for example, will be narrowed, and plants will be added to create a “gateway concept” to the park and slow down cars, according to Lisa Dugan, landscape architect with UpStudio Landscapes LLC.
For the Davis Avenue approach, Dugan said Japanese Lilac Trees will be planted. Other plants that will be added in the areas around the bridge on the Davis Avenue side include Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass, Purple de Oro Daylilly and Silvery Sunproof Liriope. Dugan said these are “durable plants” that will fill the space in well.
Trees on the Riverview Park side of the bridge will include Common Serviceberry, Allegheny Serviceberry, Mountain Silverbell and American Hophornbeam. Non-tree plants will include Little Bluestem, Virginia Wildrye, Echinacea purpurea, Bottlebrush Grass, Partridge Pea, Blackeyed Susan and Oxeye Sunflower. Dugan said these plants were picked due in part to being “deer-resistant.”
Following the presentation, the bridge officials listened to questions and comments from attendees. Suggestions included the addition of litter and recycling cans on both sides of the bridge, an idea to put in a stone obelisk similar to the ones that other entrances to the park have and other such ideas.
Concerns were also shared about who will care for the plants added with the bridge, as well as several residents questioning how sure the funding for the bridge was. The Department of Public Works is set to take care of the landscaping on the park side, while care for the trees on the Brighton Heights side will fall to an environmental non-profit called Tree Pittsburgh.
Speaking to the Chronicle in October, after Mayor Ed Gainey released his preliminary budget, Zachary Workman, the project manager for the city on the bridge construction and a member of the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, expressed confidence in the bridge’s funding being secured.
Workman said the mayor’s budget includes $3.75 million of American Rescue Plan money for the bridge, which should see it to completion. While the budget will have to go through city council first, Workman said he was confident the funding would “make it through any edits and be approved in the year.”
Emily Bourne, a communications specialist with the city, also agreed with the assessment.
“The fact that the remaining funds are accounted for in this draft budget indicates the priority for the mayor’s office,” Bourne said. “And it’s a massive priority for Councilman (Bobby) Wilson and his district.”
In regards to the feedback the city received from the meeting, Workman said the design team is looking into the full extent of the landscaping and ensuring it will be maintained for years to come. Workman said Tree Pittsburgh has been “fairly accountable” over the years and he did not think people should worry over the trees not receiving proper attention from them.
He also said the installation of garbage and recycling bins is being looked at, as well as the stone obelisks other park entrances have.
The slideshow which was given at the presentation can be found online at engage.pittsburghpa.gov/davis-avenue-bridge. There is also a link to the public art part of the project, which is still in development and open to feedback from the public.