Grant would help connect Downtown with Hill District, arena site

The Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority board is taking the first steps to connect Downtown to the former Civic Arena site and the Hill District with a cap over part of Interstate 579.

Board members approved an agreement today to accept a $918,684 federal grant to help fund the preliminary design for the proposed cap, which in essence would be a bridge over the part of I-579 known as Crosstown Boulevard.

The $1.1 million preliminary design work is expected to start in late spring or this summer and take about nine months.

It will look at the best method for the cap, the engineering involved and the cost.

Estimates put the cost of the structure at $27 million, money neither the SEA, the city nor the county has at this point.

That's in addition to another $30 million needed for the infrastructure work related to the former arena site, the target of a proposed office, residential and commercial development.

It appears to be a daunting task.

"We're taking it a step at a time," SEA Executive Director Mary Conturo said. "Once we have a better plan as to design and cost, that gives us more information to go and find the funding."

State Sen. Wayne Fontana said there appears to be high interest from the federal congressional delegation and Gov. Tom Corbett related to the 28-acre arena project. That may be helpful in securing funding, he said.

"The 28 acres is a priority. I think there's reason to be optimistic," he said.

The SEA board today also approved the hiring of consultants to assist with an application for a federal TIGER grant to help fund the arena-site infrastructure. The SEA is seeking about $17 million. It lost out in the last round of TIGER funding. The application is due April 20.

Mark Belko: or 412-263-1262.

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