Interstate Platform Park Could 'Correct An Injustice' By Reconnecting Hill District, Downtown

Jul 27, 2016

Traffic passes between Downtown Pittsburgh and the Hill District on Bigelow Boulevard and Interstate 579 on Wednesday, July 27, 2016.
Credit Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Residents of the Hill District would have a much easier time walking or biking to downtown Pittsburgh after the construction of a proposed three-acre park with pathways on a platform raised overtop of I-579 in the Lower Hill.

The project, which has already undergone a year-long planning and design process, will be ready for construction after the federal government releases $19 million in grant funding for the effort this October, officials announced Tuesday.

“This grant is going to help us correct an injustice that was done back in the '50s when urban redevelopment literally sliced away the Hill District from the city of Pittsburgh when the highway was built,” said Democratic state Rep. Mike Doyle.

The proposed park includes lawns, trees and pathways to be built on a platform raised above the busy highway of I-579.
Credit I-579 Cap Urban Connector Project TIGER Grant Application

The compact, 3-acre park would act as a green roof to I-579 with trees, lawns, pathways and a pond interspersed throughout the site.

"This award will help heal one of Pittsburgh’s worst efforts at urban renewal when decades ago city planners ... cut the lifeblood from one our most historic communities," Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement.

Doyle said he hopes the park will spur action from the Pittsburgh Penguins on the redevelopment of the 28-acre site of the former Civic Arena across the street.

“The Pens are in negotiation with three anchor tenants," Doyle said. "They’ve not said who they’re speaking with, but we know that’s going on. This announcement’s certainly going to help their efforts and complement that development.”

The park would act as a bridge over I-579 for pedestrians and bicyclists traveling between the Hill District and Downtown Pittsburgh.
Credit I-579 Cap Urban Connector Project TIGER Grant Application

City leaders acknowledged Wednesday they jumped the gun.

The $19 million TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant is expected to be formally announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation this week. Federal funding makes up about 60 percent of the total project cost of $32 million, according to the grant application.

The city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority would accept the TIGER grant this fall.