Residents of Pittsburgh's Troy Hill neighborhood welcome Rialto Street reopening
March 30, 2014 11:45 PM
Rialto Street connects Troy Hill to Route 28. The steep road will reopen Monday after being closed since 2011.
By Kaitlynn Riely / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It is rare, indeed, to read an ode to a road.
But residents of Troy Hill may soon be penning a joyful one.
Rialto Street, a main thoroughfare into and out of the North Side neighborhood, is reopening this morning for the first time in more than 2½ years, a lifting of the blockades long wished for by many residents.
"You won't find anybody unhappy," said city Councilwoman Darlene Harris, whose district includes Troy Hill.
Judging by the number of phone calls her office has fielded about the road closure, she said "people will be thrilled" to see it open again.
Among Troy Hill residents, sentiment about the road's reopening seemed to be different variations of the same: finally.
"It's about time," said Jim Bougher, a Troy Hill resident and owner of Billy's Troy Hill Bistro, a short walk from where Rialto empties into the neighborhood.
Matt Stidle, a 30-year-old resident and chair of the Troy Hill Citizens group, predicted there would be happy people waiting to use Rialto again.
"It just opens up a lot of freedom for the neighborhood," he said.
Rialto Street, a steep incline affectionately referred to as "Pig Hill" by nearby residents because pigs were once driven down the road from stockyards to slaughterhouses, was closed in August 2011.
The reason was the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's work on the Route 28-31st Street Bridge intersection. But even after that work was completed in November 2013, Rialto remained closed because of concerns about use of the road during wintertime.
Rialto Street, which has been included in the "Dirty Dozen" bike race of the city's steepest hills, drops sharply from Troy Hill into a traffic signal at Route 28.
Four years ago, after a car driving on a snow-covered Rialto Street flipped, the city of Pittsburgh decided to stop temporarily closing the road during winter weather conditions with wooden barriers that drivers sometimes removed. Instead, the city erected concrete barriers to block usage of the road until spring arrived.
Spring has arrived, and at 10 a.m. today, Rialto Street will open, once again allowing for a straight shot from Route 28 to Troy Hill that is practically straight up.
"I'll be there. I'll be glad to see that open," Ms. Harris said.
Rialto Street is not the only way into and out of Troy Hill, a neighborhood of about 2,500 people, Mr. Stidle said. But it is one of the main ones and a quick route for people heading Downtown, to the Strip District and Lawrenceville, and to destinations in the East End.
"Convenience is the No. 1 benefit of that street," said Nicole Moga, 32, who has owned a home in Troy Hill since 2009.
Ms. Harris said the road is not used just by Troy Hill residents, but also as a route for people living in the city neighborhoods of Spring Garden and Spring Hill, as well as Reserve.
As for next winter, Ms. Harris said she did not know the city's plans for Rialto Street.
"I would hope not," she said, asked whether it would closed again.
Instead, she suggested that if the city wants to close it at times, that crews erect a gate that can be easily closed and opened again to respond to specific road condition situations, rather than a closure lasting the entire winter.
Mr. Stidle and Ms. Moga both suggested a similar wintertime approach.
"We all enjoy the convenience, for sure. But we want it to be safe," she said.
Kathy Daniels, a lifelong Troy Hill resident, said in the past she has avoided taking the steep street near her house if the weather was bad, and she said drivers need to use common sense.
She was glad Rialto Street was reopening. She only wished it had opened sooner.
"It's quicker to go down the hill," she said.
Kaitlynn Riely: email@example.com or 412-263-1707.
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