Residents petitioning city to change traffic plan near Fern Hollow Bridge

PITTSBURGH — A petition against the City of Pittsburgh’s proposed traffic changes west of the Fern Hollow Bridge has gained hundreds of signatures in recent days.

“We all want to see this intersection get safer,” said Squirrel Hill resident Rebecca Elhassid. “But none of us agree with this current plan.”

Earlier this month, leaders with the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure revealed their proposal, stating it aims to “implement a ‘quick build’ solution to the gap in the bicycle network created by the Fern Hollow Bridge replacement that is forward compatible with planned traffic projects in the area and addresses safety issues for all users to the greatest extent possible.”

The proposal includes the area on and around Beechwood Boulevard. It calls for an added bike lane with flex posts and would eliminate some street parking and restrict three turns. Drivers would no longer be able to turn right from Beechwood onto South Dallas Avenue. Drivers on South Dallas would no longer be able to turn left onto Beechwood and drivers on Beacon Street wouldn’t be able to turn left onto Beechwood.

“DOMI’s plan prioritizes all of the through traffic at the neighbors’ expense. Their plans include three restrictions on turns that local residents use on a daily basis,” said Steven Albert, who launched the petition along with a neighbor. Albert told Channel 11 that between an online version and hard copy, he has gained more than 400 signatures. He plans to present the petition to City Council on Wednesday. 

Albert told Channel 11 that he and his neighbors “don’t oppose change” and have actually been calling on the city for traffic-calming measures at the intersections for quite some time. But, what’s been proposed, they fear, will create more of a danger. They worry that the city isn’t accounting for how many vehicles will travel through the area once the bridge reopens and they want to see a traffic study conducted after that time.

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Until then, “no major action should be taken here,” Elhassid told us. She worries that the restricted turns will send vehicles detouring through their residential streets. She said that poses a danger to the area children, who walk to multiple nearby schools.

“All of those students who walk to school - and the number has increased because the school buses have decreased - they’re all walking on the side streets over here, which are essentially where this traffic is going to get inadvertently directed to,” she said.

“We’d like to work with DOMI. We want to be good partners. We’d like to see them just slow down their process and realize that safety for everyone is paramount for everybody,” Albert said. “We really don’t want to see the bridge reopen and then have a tragedy on the other side of it.”

Channel 11 reached out to a city spokesperson for comment. We had not received a response by the time this article was published, but our Tribune-Review partners report that city officials have claimed the work needs to be done quickly, as the funding for it is included in the federal dollars being used to reconstruct the Fern Hollow Bridge. A spokesperson told our partners that “it’s not feasible” to hold off on the work.

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