New Shadyside pedestrian bridge expected to open soon

Span connects Ellsworth Avenue with Eastside complex

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The pedestrian bridge spanning railroad tracks from Ellsworth Avenue and Spahr Street in Shadyside to the Eastside retail complex in Shadyside is expected to open within a few weeks.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority, whose project the pedestrian bridge is, reports that some safety infrastructure remains to be done.

Construction on the bridge did not start until three years after the design by artist Sheila Klein was approved in 2008. It was completed well before the late-December deadline that had been set in March.

But when the construction vehicles were gone and the street reopened, there were still barriers on the bridge.

"People said, 'It looks finished, why isn't it open?' " said Dan Gilman, chief of staff to Councilman Bill Peduto. "People have been moving the barrier and using it anyway."

Signs on the bridge read, "Pardon us while we bridge the gap" and "Coming soon."

Not soon enough for nearby merchants, who endured a drop in business during construction, when traffic was reduced to one direction, sidewalks were closed and signs read "road closed ahead."

"We got tons of complaints" from business owners on the corridor, Mr. Gilman said. "We tried to help them as much as we could, but there will always be an impact."

Adam Mediouni and his family own two restaurants on Ellsworth, La Casa and Brassiere 33. He said construction and the delayed opening of the bridge has hurt all Ellsworth Avenue business.

"The whole street was closed for almost a year," he said. "Now the bridge is finished and it's not open. It's not fair."

At the Idea Shop at the corner of the two streets, Laura Young could watch the progress directly in front of her.

"We're really excited about it," she said. "It's just beautiful. It did slow business way down," she said. "But now that it's almost done, it will have been worth it."

She said she watches cyclists and dog-walkers move the barricade to cross.

"I've gone across to get coffee," she said.

Across Spahr and two doors down, the Cypress Luxury Boutique, an interior decorating business, opened in April, just after the work began.

"Since we're a new business, drive-by traffic is important to us," said manager Jeff Brady. "It definitely affected our business, but I do think the construction company was pretty good about keeping us informed."

He said construction made great progress early on, then became sluggish, with "a lot of delays with the lighting."

"I think the bridge is going to be helpful for us," he said. "The fact that people can walk that way to Whole Foods will generate foot traffic that we need. We're feeling a little better about being on this end of Ellsworth. A lot of people stop at College Street, thinking the rest is residential."

The foot bridge was first proposed by East Liberty Development Inc. as a way to link East Liberty and Shadyside when Eastside was constructed in 2004.

After Ms. Klein's design passed muster, there were numerous conditions to be resolved, including right-of-way conflicts, property transfers, costs and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation conditions.

"What we hope," said Mr. Gilman, "is that the minor things can be taken care of in the next two weeks." The bridge can have a soft opening, then -- when asphalt season resumes with warm weather -- it can be closed again briefly for final work.

"The councilman [Peduto] has asked the administration for an expected opening date and to put a sign up at the bridge so that the public has all of the information on what is happening."

Correction/Clarification: (Published February 2, 2012) The Eastside retail complex is in Shadyside. A story Sunday misidentified its neighborhood.

Diana Nelson Jones: or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabout at . First Published January 29, 2012 5:00 AM


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