Downtown Pittsburgh bike ramp fundraising goal met

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A mini-fundraising campaign to complete financing of a $3 million bicycle-pedestrian ramp from the Smithfield Street Bridge to the Monongahela Wharf in Downtown Pittsburgh met its goal in less than a day.

The Riverlife organization had hoped to raise $4,454 -- an amount equivalent to the distance, in feet, from the ramp to the Point State Park fountain -- in 60 days. "We were completely blown away when we zipped through that goal in less than 24 hours," spokesman Stephan Bontrager said.

As a result, geotechnical drilling has begun and the organization expects to solicit construction bids in the next month or two, he said. The hope is to have the ramp complete sometime next year.

"We've already raised over $3 million for the project from public and private sources," Mr. Bontrager said. "It's always nice when the last little piece comes from the community."

As of this week, the campaign had raised more than $5,400 from 112 donors using the website Indiegogo. Riverlife is urging people to continue donating, saying the excess will be used for first-rate signs directing users to the ramp.

The switchback ramp will be constructed with an open-grate walkway designed to minimize disturbance of the aquatic habitat below and eliminate the need for snow removal and salting during the winter. It will descend toward the east from the bridge walkway and loop back toward the west to reach the wharf.

The ramp is one of two connections needed to bring fuller utilization of a 2,000-foot riverfront trail that opened along the wharf in November 2009. The other is a cantilevered platform to carry the trail around Fort Pitt Bridge piers and into Point State Park.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources last month announced a $2 million grant to complete the park connection.

When both links are open, the park will be fully connected to the Great Allegheny Passage trail to Cumberland, Md., which connects to the C&O Towpath to provide 330 continuous miles from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.

Mr. Bontrager said Riverlife is in discussions with the state to try to finish both projects at the same time.

About half of the switchback financing comes from public sources, including grants from the state Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and from the Allegheny Regional Asset District. The remainder was donated by private sources not yet publicly identified by Riverlife.

neigh_city - Transportation

Jon Schmitz: or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at Twitter: @pgtraffic.


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