On Monday, November 15 Governor Tom Wolf joined federal, county and local officials for the ribbon cutting of the I-579 Urban Connector project. The I-579 "CAP" project is a unique Sports and Exhibition Authority sponsored project located in the City of Pittsburgh. The project has constructed a "cap" structure spanning I-579, recreating a link between downtown Pittsburgh and the Hill District. In part, the project will create a new three-acre public greenspace. This project is an excellent example of multi-organizational collaboration with funding from the Federal Highway Administration, construction oversight by PennDOT and the City of Pittsburgh owning and maintaining the park and recreation area upon completion.
The Hill District was once a densely populated area with over 50,000 residents in 1950. The historic Lower Hill District neighborhood was declared blighted after World War II and by 1956, 413 businesses and over 8,000 residents were forced to relocate. Over 1,300 buildings on 95 acres of land were demolished for the Civic Arena, an apartment building and an apartment/hotel complex with most of the remaining property becoming surface parking. The connection of the Hill District and downtown Pittsburgh was severed in the 1950's when I-579 was constructed, further compounding the problems for the community. This separation had significant impacts to residents and businesses in the Hill District creating barriers to employment, education, and services in downtown. The CAP project looks to reestablish connectivity and support private development.
The CAP structure is located over Interstate 579 bounded by Washington Place, Centre Avenue, Chatham Street, Bigelow Boulevard, as well as, property to the north of Bigelow Boulevard. The structure is approximately 52,000 square feet and consists of pre-stressed concrete adjacent box- beams. The bridge deck is an 8-inch-thick reinforced concrete slab. The surface of the CAP will become a public urban open space which will include pedestrian pathways, bicycle routes, rain gardens for stormwater management, and design elements from neighborhood artists.
In his remarks, the Governor noted the importance of collaboration, investment, and community. "This project is a fantastic example of what we can accomplish when we come together to invest in our infrastructure," said Governor Wolf. "An investment in infrastructure is an investment in communities and the people who bring them to life. This project has turned a space of division into a space of connection."