Heth’s Run Valley hasn’t been much of a valley for a while. The area underneath Heth’s Run bridge—a portion of Butler Street between Morningside and Highland Park—had long been a dumping site for industrial waste. City Councilwoman Deb Gross, whose district includes the area, said many of her constituents didn’t even know a bridge was there.
But that area is slated to get a major facelift, which Gross said has been a long time coming.
“The Heth’s Run project, if I’m not mistaken, has been twelve years in the making, with community involvement and visioning with (residents from) both Highland Park and Morningside,” Gross said.
PennDOT began reconstruction of the 100-year old bridge in September 2013, and work is expected to be completed this fall.
Pittsburgh Public Works Director Mike Gable said it’s now time to start thinking about the next phase of construction: a total renovation of the area stretching from the Allegheny River past the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium to Hampton Street on the Morningside/Highland Park border.
Gable is projecting that the preparation of construction documents for the project will cost $400,000, and he’s asking City Council to commit half of that as soon as possible.
“We want to at least get this thing moving, because the bridge is almost going to be completed in October,” Gable told City Council during their committee meeting Wednesday. “We’ve also been approached by a private foundation that’s going to match the $200,000, we believe, which will allow us to produce these documents much quicker and get the project done quicker.”
The proposed project would move a portion of the zoo’s parking lot and replace it with a multi-use athletic field. New trails will provide river access, and permeable surfaces will help control water runoff.
“It’s going to take about a year to do this whole (planning) process, and it certainly will be an energetic community process and ultimately we’ll come out of this with construction documents,” said Gable.
City Council Wednesday gave preliminary approval to the $200,000 expenditure for construction documents, but Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith was not without concerns.
She said while she understands the importance of the project, she had been under the impression that projects explicitly related to public safety would take priority in the budget. The councilwoman specifically pointed to problems with flooding along Banksville Road in her district.
“There are people dealing with raw sewage every time it rains,” Kail-Smith said. “$200,000 for … for people to enjoy a park is nice if we had that luxury, but I would … think that flooding and landslides and things like that would take priority.”
Council is scheduled to take a final vote on the bill on Tuesday.