LOWER HILL DEVELOPMENT PROJECT – I-579 “Cap” Urban Connector Project
The I-579 “Cap” Urban Connector Project (the “Cap” project) will consist of the construction of a new “cap” structure spanning over a portion of I-579, and improvements to an adjacent intersection and underutilized vacant land parcels. The Cap project will re-establish the physical link with Downtown Pittsburgh and the Hill District community. The 3-acre “Cap” project will create safe and accessible routes for walking and biking between the Hill District and Downtown.
The “Cap” project will be transformative for the Hill District by removing a physical barrier and re-establishing connectivity to centers of employment, education and services in Downtown Pittsburgh.
The final design includes accessible pedestrian pathways, sustainable features such as stormwater management, amphitheater, stage, lawns, landscaping, recreation areas, “embedded” art, and other amenities. The existing non-ADA compliant walkways leading from Seventh Avenue to the Chatham Street/Bigelow Boulevard intersection will be replaced and brought up to current design standards. Improvements to the intersection will include ADA compliant curb-cut ramps and crosswalks constructed with associated signs, audible/count-down pedestrian signals, and pavement markings.
Progress and Updates
HDR Engineering (HDR) is the lead engineer and was selected in accordance with federal / state selection procedures. HDR is a national firm with previous experience similar to this Project.
The project has completed final design, and bidding is scheduled to be completed in October 2018. Construction is anticipated to begin before the end of 2018 and will last 28 months
The Authority is working with PennDOT, FHWA and the City of Pittsburgh on the project. The Design Field View (DFV) and Type, Size and Location (TS&L) submissions for the Project is being reviewed by FHWA and approved by PennDOT. PennDOT will manage the construction of the project . The project meets all the requirements for environmental categorical exclusions. The project is a Class II federal action requiring a Level 1B Categorical Exclusion Evaluation (CEE). The Level 1B CEE was approved October 2, 2015. A Section 106 process is underway for determination of the Cantini Mosaic as a historic resource. A courtesy review presentation of the Cantini Mosaic was also given at the November 29 2017 City of Pittsburgh Art Commission meeting.. By action of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) of September 28, 2015, the project was added to the fiscally constrained project list of the Mapping the Future: The Southwestern Pennsylvania Plan (the SPC Long-Range Plan).
Public Input / Community Involvement
As part of the final design, a design review and community process was undertaken to obtain input from residents of the Hill District and other stakeholders regarding the details of design of the 3-acre public urban open space that will make up the surface of the “Cap.” The first public working meeting was held on March 30, 2016, and its purpose was to gain ideas for the park elements as well as experiences. The second meeting was held on May 16, 2016 and presented concepts based on what was gathered from the first public meeting. A third public meeting was held on June 27, 2016 to present the preferred park layout. A link to the a summary can be found here.
The inclusion of art was articulated as a community desire. While standalone art is a consideration for the additional future surface elements described above, what has been developed to be included in this base construction cost are embedded design elements as conceived by artists. Below is a summary of the process that we undertook in the development of these embedded design elements:
The SEA, in collaboration with the Office of Public Art (OPA), released a national Request for Qualifications for artists to participate on the design team for the Project. An artist information session to encourage Hill District-based artists to apply was held on September 28, 2016 at the Hill House Blakey Center.
There was a nine-member selection committee comprised of Hill District stakeholders (4 members), representatives from the SEA and the SEA’s Art committee (2 members), Department of City Planning (1 member), Department of Public Works (1 member), Urban Redevelopment Authority (1 member) and the project designer, LaQuatra Bonci Associates (LBA, 1 member). As a result, artists who are past or present Hill District residents (Amir Rashidd, Darrell Kinsel, Dr. Kimberly Ellis) became part of the design team. Another artist was added because of her experience in integrating art within PennDOT transportation projects (Jann Rosen-Queralt). Based on the recommendation of the committee, Lakeisha Byrd, a Hill District resident, with architecture background, and owner of Communion LLC, was also added to the design team to support the artists and community engagement efforts.
LBA, Communion, and OPA worked with the artists to collaboratively develop design concepts that will be integrated into the construction documents of the Project. This included a four-day Design Charrette with the artists in December 2016. Thereafter, the artists participated in several work sessions between January and March of 2017 to further define the design concepts.
LBA and OPA presented the design to the SEA’s Art Committee on April 18, 2017. The Art Committee requested that the artists have a meeting in the community to present the design with a specific focus on the text included in the design. LBA, OPA, Communion along with artists, Amir Rashidd and Dr. Kimberly Ellis, presented their conceptual design to the City of Pittsburgh Art Commission and received preliminary approval on April 26, 2017. Communion organized the public meeting requested by the SEA to present the Project’s surface design. The meeting was held on June 22, 2017. Overall, members of the audience expressed enthusiasm for the design, specifically its focus on African American history and experience.
At the City of Pittsburgh Art Commission November 29, 2017 meeting, the Project was given final approval of the embedded design enhancements. Click here for presentation.
At the City of Pittsburgh Planning Commission December 5, 2017 meeting, a briefing was given for the Final Land Development Plan for the Project. Click here for presentation.
The project drawings are 95% complete and have been submitted to PennDOT for review.
Final Land Development Plan hearing/action by Planning Commission is anticipated in 3Q 2018. Construction start is anticipated for 4Q 2018, with a 28 month construction period.
For up to date information, please visit the “Cap” project site at: www.i-579captiger.com.
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