Jubilant officials from Heidelberg, Scott and Carnegie lined up across Route 50 in Heidelberg Aug. 27 to celebrate the completion of a road improvement and neighborhood beautification project involving 1.5 miles of a continuous street through the three towns.
Armed with scissors and smiles, the group snipped a long red ribbon that stretched across the wide, busy state highway that once had sidewalks on just the eastern side. They were joined in the celebration by U. S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, who spearheaded the project, and District 4 County Councilman Mike Finnerty, D-Scott.
The occasion marked the end of a nearly decade-long journey that began in a fourth community.
It was Aug. 9, 2005, when Rep. Murphy presented Collier officials with a $2.4 million check from federal highway funds to rebuild and expand the Kirwan Heights interchange on Interstate 79. Some ramps were omitted when the interchange was constructed and that resulted in excessive neighborhood traffic.
But when that project, which was tied to some major development in the township, did not advance, Mr. Murphy returned to Collier the following year to say he would be reallocating the money for the streetscape project.
Construction funds typically lose 10 percent of their value each year, so the money needed to be moved while it still had significant value, he said.
However, Mr. Murphy pledged to assist Collier with future projects. "My door is always open," he said.
On Aug. 25, 2009, he presented a $2.4 million check for streetscape improvements to officials from the three towns at Wright's Seafood Inn. The money was dispersed from a federal transportation bill.
Though Mr. Murphy initially had envisioned improving Route 50 through Heidelberg, Scott and Washington Avenue in Carnegie, the plans changed after Scott Manager Denise Fitzgerald and Scott Commissioner Eileen Meyers lobbied to fix up Carothers Avenue in Glendale, one of Scott's oldest neighborhoods and a former business district. Carothers carries traffic to and from the Carnegie border to Route 50.
Some Carnegie officials concurred, with leaders from both communities arguing that the September 2004 Hurricane Ivan flood had dealt an economic blow to their towns.
Still, not everyone liked the idea of switching parking to the other side of Carothers; some also objected to the relocation of utility poles. Others weren't convinced that the upgrades would make a difference in Glendale.
"Why would you waste money putting silk stockings on a pig?" asked Jack Kane of nearby Boden in Carnegie in October 2009.
"I can't see the advantages. The businesses are not coming back to Carothers, trust me," added Bill Fluke of Carnegie, who owns property on the street.
However, Mrs. Fitzgerald took a different view, arguing that Carothers "is one of the gateways to our community", which Mr. Kane disputed on the basis that 90 percent of the street's residents are renters.
"I'd like to change that," was Scott Commissioner Tom Castello's response.
Some residents took exception to less familiar initiatives, too. For example, after traffic deflectors called bollards were installed for safety reasons in fall 2013 some Scott residents complained to commissioners about their appearance.
In February 2010, the three towns received a $250,000 Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund grant from the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County for sidewalk installation and reconstruction. Benches with the town's name, have been placed at various locations along the route.
Work financed with the federal money includes decorative street lighting and ornamental furniture, infrastructure improvements, as well as ADA walkways and traffic signs. In Heidelberg, separate grants were received for curb ramps, new traffic signals and a large town clock. Business owners opted to redo their storefronts.
"It put a new face on Heidelberg," said Manager Joe Kauer. "It doesn't look like the same town."
More recently, the three communities learned that Allegheny County's Department of Public Works was interested in rehabilitating the 146-foot bridge over Chartiers Creek that links Third Street in Carnegie with Carothers Avenue in Scott. The work, which includes new lights and paint, is ongoing and expected to be completed in December.
Carnegie Mayor Jack Kobistek is optimistic about the completed project's impact.
"We believe it'll be a catalyst for more development in that area," he said.
Rep. Murphy agreed, stating, "We expect more shops will locate [there] and once that bridge opens up, it'll be even more popular."
Carole Gilbert Brown, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.