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Parkway rebuild may threaten homes in The Run | The Homepage

The Run and the Parkway East

By Ziggy Edwards and Ray Gerard for Junction Coalition

Bob Geisler stands outside his home in The Run with the Parkway East behind him. Photo by Ray Gerard

Bob Geisler found Four Mile Run (known as The Run) by accident in 2015, when his real estate agent took him to a house on “the wrong Saline Street.”

“I fell head over heels as soon as I saw [the neighborhood],” Mr. Geisler, now 35, told us during an April 16 interview. He told the real estate agent he wanted a house in The Run, and soon found one that checked all his boxes and more. Since moving in, he’s become a neighborhood fixture and has no interest in leaving.

“At this point, everybody knows me,” he said. “I can’t walk down the street without someone wanting to shake my hand.”

But Mr. Geisler’s future in The Run may depend on the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (known as PennDOT). PennDOT is working on plans to improve the Parkway East Bridge that towers over the neighborhood.

From what Mr. Geisler understands, “They’re studying which is more practical — to repair the bridge or replace it with a new bridge that would be built beside it.”

“If they decide to build a new bridge,” he added, “my house is in the flight path for sure.”

Uncertainty hangs in the air

According to PennDOT’s feasibility study page, they plan to coordinate their work with several other projects happening in the same area over the next few years. These include replacing the Swinburne Bridge, extensive changes to the Squirrel Hill interchange farther east on the Parkway, and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s Four Mile Run Stormwater Project.

“Opportunities to work together to ensure all the projects are the least impactful to the community will be explored,” the website states.

It also discusses “Notice of Intent to Enter” letters sent to property owners in the affected area. Mr. Geisler received one of these letters and has spoken with neighbors who also received letters.

The website notes, “These letters do not mean a property will be directly impacted by the project, only that access during the feasibility and future design phases may be needed.” The letter Mr. Geisler received contained similar language.

Unlike some of his neighbors, though, Mr. Geisler’s house sits directly the path of PennDOT’s possible new bridge.

“I understand why they want to build toward The Run,” he commented. “It would be easier to take property from us [using eminent domain] than from the city and the railroad.” Those two entities own most of the land on the northern side of the existing bridge.

“But they could do the bridge on the other side,” he added, “and no one would lose their home.”

Original construction of the bridge in 1951 displaced homes and businesses in The Run, permanently scarring the neighborhood and bringing problems like noise and additional runoff.

But those same destructive forces helped make The Run what it is today — the neighborhood Mr. Geisler fell in love with. The remaining residents became even more fiercely loyal to and protective of their community. The Run grew more isolated from motor vehicles over decades, even as traffic surrounded it.

There’s no place like The Run

Like many Pittsburghers, Mr. Geisler glimpsed The Run routinely without knowing it.

He told us, “I would see the playground and basketball courts [on Four Mile Run Road] while driving up Swinburne and think, ‘I wonder how to get down there.’”

The neighborhood’s dead-end layout makes it hard to piece together the route. Mr. Geisler said that before stumbling on The Run, he didn’t realize the playground and basketball courts were part of it.

“I thought it was empty, or junked cars,” he said.

Instead, Mr. Geisler found his dream home in what he described as “a suburban neighborhood tucked away on a dead-end street in the middle of the city.”

He mentioned how most of the neighbors know each other and groups of children play outside.

“It’s a lot like where I grew up in Jeanette,” he said. “Except there’s more going on here; there’s businesses.”

Plus, Mr. Geisler’s house cost about half as much as the houses he was considering in upper Greenfield. That’s partly because of The Run’s flooding problem. So far, Mr. Geisler’s house has fared well. He said that during his first major flood, he found and repaired a clogged drain. Since then, the flooding has lessened.

To Mr. Geisler, it’s a small price to pay for the life he’s found in The Run. “Nine years later, it’s even better than I thought.”

Follow this important project

Visit PennDOT’s feasibility study page for more details and instructions for getting project notifications.

Visit the District 5 newsletter webpage to sign up for monthly emails.

Junction Coalition is a grassroots advocacy group comprising residents of Four Mile Run and surrounding communities. Email junctioncoalition@gmail.com for more information.

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