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June 26, 2008

Oakland crosswalk upgrades to begin

Oakland pedestrians soon will see improvements at 11 intersections along Fifth and Forbes avenues. A $2.1 million project designed to improve pedestrian safety and mobility has received the go-ahead to begin June 30.

Improvements will be made to the intersections on Forbes and Fifth avenues at South Bouquet Street, Atwood Street, Meyran Avenue and McKee Place as well as the intersections of Fifth Avenue and Thackeray Street, Fifth Avenue and DeSoto Street, and Forbes and Oakland avenues.

The project will include new countdown pedestrian crossing signals with bright LED lighting (similar to signals already in place near Schenley Plaza), wider crosswalks with more visible striping, curb extensions, the addition of landscaping to the traffic island at Fifth and DeSoto and new decorative street lighting.

Curb extensions that will be added on the north sides of Fifth and Forbes avenues are designed to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians and increase visibility, but will not eliminate any parking places, said Mavis Rainey, executive director of the Oakland Transportation Management Association. OTMA is a project sponsor, along with the City of Pittsburgh.

The contractor for the project is Michael Facchiano Contracting of Pittsburgh. Work is to be done from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. to minimize disruptions during high-traffic periods. Plans call for the work to begin at Fifth Avenue and Thackeray and work east to west (toward Downtown), then move to the intersection of Forbes and South Bouquet and continue east to west. Rainey said intermittent sidewalk and lane closures at the cross streets may occur during the project, which is anticipated to continue through the end of 2008.

Plans for the project, funded by the state’s Hometown Streets/Safe Routes to School program, have been in the works since 2004, said Rainey. “This is one of the largest things we’ve done as an agency,” she said. “We’re glad it’s coming to fruition.”

The initial project cost was to be $1.48 million, but increases in fuel and concrete prices in addition to the cost of working at night drove the price tag to $2.1 million.

To cover the higher costs, OTMA rounded out the initial funding from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Hometown Streets/Safe Routes to School program with contributions from the University, UPMC and the city.

Pitt already had provided in-kind support for the project by offering planning and construction management services valued at $250,000. Rainey said Pitt has since made a financial contribution in an undisclosed amount.

Details on the project are available online at Updates will be posted on the web site. Those who prefer to receive OTMA alerts via email may subscribe to the list by calling 412/687-4505, Rainey said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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