By Ziggy Edwards and Ray Gerard for Junction Coalition
Now that the City of Pittsburgh has committed to traffic calming on Greenfield Avenue, Greenfielders have a chance to get relief from the hazards they’ve been experiencing for years. But one crucial element is missing from the city’s plan, according to an Engage Pittsburgh webpage for the project that recently went live. So far, the plan still leaves out Greenfield Avenue’s 300 block — one of the road’s most dangerous stretches.
Improvements that made the cut
The webpage currently offers sparse details but says, “Speed tables and/or raised crosswalks will be installed at targeted locations.” A map identifies two parts of Greenfield Avenue as the project area: between Haworth and Lydia streets, and Ronald and McCaslin streets. The former borders Greenfield School and the Yeshiva School; the latter Magee Rec Center.
A collision in front of the rec center last summer injured a 12-year-old boy and led to a grass-roots demonstration along Greenfield Avenue.
Greenfield School PTO secretary Marianne Holohan, who helped draft a petition co-sponsored by the Greenfield Community Association pressing Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI) to make Greenfield Avenue safer, called the planned traffic-calming measures “a win for the community.” But she wrote in a Jan. 8 text that areas outside the current scope of the project also need urgent action, including the area between Swinburne Bridge and Haworth Street at Greenfield School.
A danger zone left out
As Junction Coalition has documented over the past few years, that one-block area — the 300 block — sees frequent car crashes and even more commonplace (often unreported) destruction of parked cars. Worse, residents fear for their safety while they navigate between their homes and their only available parking spaces on the other side of Greenfield Avenue.
Paul Faust has lived on the block for 12 years. “It's treacherous,” he said during a Jan. 10 interview. “The joke we make is that we're playing Frogger.”
He worries about his neighbors, including one who uses a walker. “I keep thinking she's going to get creamed crossing the street,” he said.
Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (known as DOMI) said in 2022 that it planned to leave Greenfield Avenue as-is until after the reconstruction of Swinburne Bridge. The bridge project was originally slated for completion in 2026, which meant DOMI planned to take no action for at least four years. Then an inspection revealed that Anderson Bridge in Schenley Park needed repairs right away, and DOMI had to delay the Swinburne project so both bridges would not be closed at the same time.
A child’s injury and the resulting community outcry shamed DOMI into addressing dangerous traffic conditions near the schools and rec center. But DOMI’s proposed scope for the traffic-calming project shows their steadfast refusal to consider the safety of people living near Swinburne Bridge.
Unsafe traffic conditions on the 300 block of Greenfield Avenue, ignored over decades, have worsened since the closure of Anderson Bridge because of detours that send commuters through the problem area. Residents say no one drives the 25 mile-per-hour speed limit; most drive 40-50 miles per hour.
“[Speeding happens] all day, every day,” Mr. Faust said, adding that the only time traffic slows down is when it’s bumper to bumper during rush hour. “I would not feel safe at all for my daughter to cross the street.”
Residents’ property is not safe, either. Eric Britten, a 20-year resident on the block, said, “Someone destroyed my parked car in a hit-and-run and it ended up against my neighbor’s house. It almost ended up in their living room.” He said his sister’s car was also totaled while parked on the 300 block.
Mr. Faust shared similar stories. “I've had two personal vehicles demolished. Another time, my car was in the shop and I had my brother's pickup. That was totaled ... A tenant who used to live upstairs [and] works for the city as a building inspector — her city-owned car was totaled. Some years ago, someone took out two telephone poles, and the prior bus shelter in front of [Greenfield School] was wiped out by someone speeding.”
Seize the opportunity for traffic safety
The City's 2024 budget calls for a 138% increase in traffic-calming measures, which amounts to $877,744.
However, city officials at an Oct. 4 public budget meeting at the Pittsburgh Firefighters IAFF Local No. 1 in Hazelwood projected a severe drop in revenue after 2024. Leaving the 300 block out of this year’s planned traffic-calming measures increases the likelihood that improvements there will be put off indefinitely.
District 5 City Councilmember Barb Warwick said she is trying to get the city to expand the scope of the Greenfield Avenue traffic-calming project to include the 300 block.
In a Dec. 15 email, she named the items she requested. “I've asked them to add a safety line to narrow the road and protect the parked cars from [Haworth Street] down to Swinburne bridge as well as a painted crosswalk from the Waldeck steps to the bus stop at the bridge.”
Residents of the 300 block have similarly inexpensive ideas about what they would like to see.
Mr. Faust advocated for “a crosswalk right in front of my place; it's where the bus stop is. And a bump-out above the Alexis Street steps, at that bus stop.”
“That would do a lot to slow down traffic,” he said.
Councilmember Warwick encouraged as many neighbors as possible to submit comments on the Engage Pittsburgh webpage at engage.pittsburghpa.gov/index.php?cID=1605.
Junction Coalition is a grassroots advocacy group comprising residents of Four Mile Run and surrounding communities.