In the 1800s, the Allegheny River became the birthplace of industry for Pittsburgh. The filled riverfronts housed steel mills, and accommodated transport—both via water and rail—of coal and steel. In the wake of these declining industries, Pittsburgh today seeks to transform their riverfronts and the identity of the city. Sasaki is leading the Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard (ARGB) study, an initiative to transform 6.5 miles of the Allegheny Riverfront from downtown to the city limit. The project will connect neighborhoods to the riverfront, and reimagine Pittsburgh as a river city. The project is focused on five tasks: integration of a commuter rail into the Allegheny Valley Railroad freight corridor along with a multi-use path; station area planning around the proposed station areas and station design; creation of a new riverfront open space system with access points, habitat and ecological enhancements, and riverbank stabilization; public outreach to engage the Pittsburgh community in this process; and overall project management.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Livability Principles organize the Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard study, which link transportation, land use, open space, ecology, and sustainable development planning. Sasaki's open space plan identifies access to the river from a parallel trail, as well as from surrounding neighborhoods via priority green streets. The plan identifies a multi-use bike path integrated into the Allegheny Valley Railroad right of way and includes landscape concept plans for three neighborhoods. Key components of the open space plan are stabilization of the riverbank, creation of riparian habitat, and separation of stormwater from the numerous combined sewers that flow into the river. As part of this last effort, three buried streams are being re-created as regenerative stormwater conveyance streams.
The commuter rail is incorporated into an active freight rail that will operate at night. The rail will utilize Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) technology. The final mile of the corridor is mixed with the East Busway BRT corridor, linking the commuter rail with downtown. A new BRT station improves transfers to the East Busway. The Sasaki team is also looking at other mobility improvements, such as links to bus and rail throughout the city, and other pedestrian, bike, and truck improvements within the entire study area.
The Sasaki team is studying up to six station areas, and is focused on the Lawrenceville station—the site of the former Hepenstall steel mill and current home to the Carnegie Mellon University National Robotics Engineering Center. A number of small tech start-ups in incubator spaces in the site area are starting to increase housing demand in the neighborhood. Sasaki is working with the community on a station area Transportation Oriented Development (TOD) plan to support the neighborhood development.
The project is funded with a Community Challenge grant from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, with individual grants from the HUD Office of Sustainable Housing Communities, and a DOT TIGER II Planning grant.