Underpass renovations past the halfway mark

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The Anderson and Sandusky Street underpasses, frequently used by motorists and pedestrians entering the Northside, have gained notoriety for their unwelcoming appearance, poor lighting and the water that drips from their ceilings.

Thanks to a community improvement project roughly 10 years in the making, the underpasses will soon be transformed.

Improvements to both underpasses include landscaping with grass, mulch and trees on each side. Curb, sidewalk and traffic signal renovations will provide a much safer area for pedestrians and an increased overall attractiveness of these Northside entry points.

Renovation of both underpasses is a joint effort of the Northside Leadership Conference, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, PennDOT and general contractor Mascaro Construction. The project received funding from federal transportation money as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

Project manager Gregory Jones of the Northside Leadership Conference said the project, which began in July, is about 60 percent complete. Anderson Street is now open to traffic and pedestrians while the project continues with improved signaling and potentially more lighting.

The Sandusky Street overpass is currently closed and major improvements are still under way, although it will be open to all traffic for Steelers and Pitt football games.

The scheduled date of completion is Dec. 9, Jones said. Delays may push completion back to the end of December at the latest.

Once workers finish structural construction, they will hang decorative canopies from each underpass to improve appearance and catch water and other materials dripping from the ceilings. The southwest corner of Sandusky Street will also include a public art project by Tim Kaulen, entitled the “Cherry Conductor.”

“Fixing these things up goes a long way toward cleaning up the image of that particular area,” Jones said.

The issue of how to handle the “cells,” or cavern-like structures initially included in the underpasses’ construction, remains up for discussion. The cells, necessary for inspection of the Norfolk Southern Railroad bridges over the streets, cause problems for street maintenance. Pedestrians frequently throw trash into these open areas, especially during Steelers and Pitt football games and other Northside events. Homeless people have also been known to take residence in the cells.

The Northside Leadership Conference plans to work with city officials and members of the community to find a solution, said Jones. The current Anderson and Sandusky Street renovations will not include a solution to the cell problem, but an overall improvement of the area’s appearance has been encouraged by the recent efforts to beautify the underpasses.

Northside residents are encouraged to direct questions regarding the construction project to Gregory Jones of the Northside Leadership Conference at 412-330-2557.

Matthew Cichowicz is a senior studying nonfiction at the University of Pittsburgh. He is interning with The Northside Chronicle during the fall semester.

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