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July 24, 1997

City share of cost for changes on Bigelow draws residents' ire

Pittsburgh City Council last night heard residents of Oakland voice concerns about the city's plan to pay as much as $425,000 to narrow the block of Bigelow Boulevard between the Ca thedral of Learning and the William Pitt Union.

City Council had planned to approve a bill financing half the cost of the work at its meeting last week, but decided to hold a hearing after being petitioned by 87 residents of Oakland concerned about the cost to the city.

The price tag for narrowing the street from four lanes to two lanes and landscaping the area has been estimated at $750,000 to $850,000. The University had proposed paying the full cost of reconstruction if the one-block stretch of Bigelow was permanently closed.

"The University still feels it has been a good neighbor in going along on the compromise and that since it is, in fact, a compromise, we shouldn't be expected to pay the total price for it," said Ken Service, Pitt's director of communications.

Immediately before last night's public hearing, Council member Jim Ferlo told the University Times that City Council will take a preliminary vote on the matter at its July 30 meeting. A final vote on the project will be then taken at the Aug. 5 Council me eting, he said. Reconstruction of the street is expected to take about a month, Fred Reginella, the city's director of engineering and construction, told the more than 125 people present at the hearing in the Holiday Inn University Center in Oakland.

Reginella's time estimate only was only for the narrowing of Bigelow from 60 feet to 24 feet. He said landscaping of the area around the street will not begin until the spring.

The University had planned to start the reconstruction by Aug. 1 and complete it by the end of the month.

"The preference certainly is to have it completed by the time school starts and there is still a chance for that to happen if they act expeditiously on it," Service said.

Of the registered speakers at the meeting, 23 listed themselves as opposed to the city paying half the reconstruction cost of Bigelow.

Nine speakers registered as in favor of the closing, including Jay Roling, the University's director of local relations.

In his remarks, Roling highlighted Pitt's contributions to Oakland, including $25,000 for the Oakland planning strategy; $10,000 to study construction of a parking garage under Schenley Plaza, and funding 50 percent of the cost of a building inspector for Oakland. Roling also noted that the city has entered into cost-sharing agreements involving projects similar to Bigelow on the North Side and in the East End.

–Mike Sajna

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