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Release Date: Tuesday, October 13th 2015

Sidewalk to be widened on Smithfield Street in Pittsburgh

By Aaron Aupperlee, Tribune Review

Pedestrians along a portion of Smithfield Street could have more sidewalk by the Monday morning commute.

Envision Downtown, a collaboration of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and the city to improve public spaces, will add 6 feet of sidewalk along one side of Smithfield Street from Sixth Avenue to Strawberry Way.

Ten parking spots, whose fate stirred concerns among businesses in the block, will stay.

“It's a happy medium between the two,” Guy Herrmann of Carl Herrmann Furs said of the balance between pedestrian space and parking. “What they got on the books will be a nice improvement.”

Herrmann, whose shop is on Smithfield Street, and four other business owners, wrote a letter in August saying their customers depend on the 10 parking spots in front of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Brooks Bros. and the Smithfield United Church of Christ.

Envision Downtown's original plan eliminated those parking spaces. Business owners said the plan didn't take into consideration their needs, and they were not involved in the planning process.

“Our revision was based directly on feedback from business owners,” said Sean Luther, executive director of Envision Downtown. “Rather than eliminating parking from the 600 block of Smithfield Street, we're adding parking.”

The 10 parking spots, now unavailable during rush hours, will be available all the time, Luther said. Herrmann said communication between Envision Pittsburgh and businesses has improved.

The project will eliminate a lane of traffic available during rush hours, but Luther did not think it would affect flow much. He said the expanded sidewalk is temporary and could be removed or changed.

A grant from the Colcom Foundation to the Downtown Pittsburgh Partnership will pay for the improvements, Luther said. PPG is donating the street paint.

The city closed Smithfield Street from Fourth Avenue to Fifth Avenue on Monday for a separate project, the reconstruction of Forbes Avenue, Luther said. The section of road could be closed for seven months.

Luther expected his project to close Smithfield from Oliver Way to Seventh Avenue just for Tuesday night. Weather permitting, the pavement was milled and was to reopen Wednesday morning. At some point during the remainder of this week, contractors will pour concrete for the sidewalk extension and a new curb.

Luther hopes the expanded sidewalk will be in place by Monday for morning commuters. “This is quick,” he said.

The expanded sidewalk in front of Burlington Coat Factory will make more space for people waiting at the busy Port Authority bus stop at Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue.

In November, Envision Downtown will install bus shelters on the sidewalk to give people a comfortable place to stand and wait.

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