Project update: Mon Wharf Switchback receives $250,000 toward construction

By October 22, 2014Blog

Grant comes from the PA Commonwealth Financing Authority

October 22, 2014 – Riverlife is pleased to announce it has received a $250,000 grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the Commonwealth Financing Authority toward construction of the Mon Wharf Switchback. Located on the eastern end of downtown Pittsburgh’s Monongahela Wharf Landing, the switchback ramp will create a riverfront connection for non-motorized trail users between the Great Allegheny Passage and Point State Park.

Riverlife applied for the grant earlier this year and the funding was approved at the Commonwealth Financing Authority’s October board meeting. The grant solidifies funding for the switchback as the project continues to move forward toward becoming a reality. After an overhaul of a previous design was needed due to unanticipated steel costs, the switchback’s updated design is 95% complete and includes more cost-efficient materials while staying mindful of design integrity and universal access. Riverlife plans to go out to bid for construction by the end of 2014 or early 2015.

Riverlife friends and Pittsburgh cycling fans know that the switchback has been a long time in the works – eight years, to be exact! Why such a long time? The switchback continues to be an extremely complicated project that perfectly illustrates the challenges of overcoming Pittsburgh’s topography and the layers of infrastructure along our waterfronts. The switchback site is located next to the nonstop traffic of I-376 on a steep riverbank near major sewer infrastructure. The ramp will connect to a historic bridge on one end and a flood-prone wharf on the other. Construction staging is a challenge, and while the city, state and federal permitting processes have gone smoothly so far, it’s certainly not a fast process given the number of authorities and partnerships involved in making the ramp a reality. We’ve also been meeting with cycling advocates, Downtown stakeholders and user groups and want to ensure the final design reflects that community feedback.

The project took another major step forward today when it received conceptual and final approval from the City of Pittsburgh Art Commission.

The switchback won’t be the only much-needed trail improvement on the Mon Wharf Landing. On the western end of the wharf the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is in the process of designing and engineering a connection that will lead trail users of all ages underneath the Ft. Pitt Bridge and directly into Point State Park. Known as the Point State Park Connector, this project will work in conjunction with the Mon Wharf Switchback to create uninterrupted riverfront trail access for the thousands of annual cyclists and pedestrians on the Great Allegheny Passage. Riverlife is in constant contact with DCNR and the City of Pittsburgh to make sure both projects are on track while complementing each other and the holistic design of the Mon Wharf system.

Riverlife thanks the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Commonwealth Financing Authority for their generosity and looks forward to sharing more exciting updates with you as the Mon Wharf Switchback progresses.