Well I have to admit there hasn't been this much to blog about in some time now in my adopted home town. Much to my dismay I have had some rather serious health problems nagging me for a while now that have kept me away from the keyboard and from voicing my opinion of the local goings on.
So here is a quick update with some brief thoughts on the current state of our fair shire. All opinions are my own and I claim no inside knowledge of the dealings at hand.
First, you would have to be blind now to have seen the progress of the build up on the property formerly occupied by Edgewater Steel. Homes have grown where a foundry once stood and have given the entire area a new look. I haven't actually inquired but my understanding is that occupying one of those new spaces will place a substantial strain on your wallet and I don't think I need to tell you about the taxes that will come with that parcel of land. Let me also predict that the next traffic light in Oakmont will be at the intersection of Collage Avenue and Allegheny River Boulevard.
Now the the other end of town. I have been hearing since I started dating my lovely wife many decades ago that Oakmont was going to get a brand new bridge to replace the aging span from Oakmont to Harmarville across the Allegheny River.
I remember when the bridge was stripped of it's deck and a substantial amount of work was done on the underside rebuilding and strengthening the various members followed by pouring a new road surface and sidewalk. This was followed by a spiffy new pant job that earned the bridge the nick name "Lavender Link". PENDOT had decided that all bridges would be painted with pastel colors that would make inspection easier and allow any serious problems with the super structure to be seen by passing river traffic.
So now here we are in the year 2013 and it looks like it is actually going to happen. Oakmont is getting a new more modern bridge. This one will be four lanes wide and will to some extent alleviate the choke point on the Harmarville side where traffic waiting to turn left onto old Rt. 28 backs up traffic wanting to go north on the same highway.
I attended a meeting with PENDOT and the engineering firm that is doing the design and construction on the bridge. There I asked the question that seems to be everyone's lips after announcement of the new bridge namely "Why doesn't it connect to the Allegheny Valley Expressway as well as old Rt. 28?". The simple answer and the one I expected was that it was a matter of money. Connecting the bridge to the expressway would have roughly doubled the cost of the project.
Now back on the Oakmont side of the bridge we have another interesting sub plot brewing involving this project. The former site of the Liebrath Dodge dealership was abandoned but I have the feeling that it had nothing to do with the construction of the new bridge. If that were the case the property would have been used in the bridge project and it was not. This leaves me to believe that the property was slated for a new tenant who would generate much more revenue for the owner than the car dealership.
This brings us to the possibility of a new Speedway gasoline station at that location. The plan as proposed would be a station with eighteen pump bays and over 30 parking spaces along with a convenience store that would operate twenty four hours a day seven days a week.
Now I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but it doesn't take a genius to reason that if you are putting up a four lane bridge to alleviate traffic congestion putting in a facility of the size proposed for the Speedway station will do little to advance the effort. Especially during morning and evening rush hours not to mention the foot traffic it will generate from students from the high school located directly across the street.
When this project was announced there was an immediate outcry from residents especially those that have to live near the entrance to the bridge and thus the large new filling station. I would imagine that a large volume of truck traffic will be generated just with delivery vehicles restocking the stores shelves and tank trucks bringing in fuel for the underground tanks. This alone would create a lot of traffic in the area.
Even those who do not live in the immediate area made their feelings known with a hue and cry not only about the traffic situation but also the affect on the aesthetics of the new bridge which has had a lot of engineering to make it not only practical but providing a pleasant view of those entering or leaving Oakmont.
When the initial objections were raised counsel quickly bowed to the demands of the citizens and denied the use of the land for the Speedway Gas Station. Everyone seemed satisfied that the matter had been put to rest and we could move on with the bridge project.
Then news stories started to emerge that counsel was "reconsidering" the plans submitted by the developer of the Speedway project. Once again there was a hue and cry about the plans but this time there seemed to be a reluctance to make a definite up or down decision. Instead there needed to be further review of the plans which lead to additional demands made by the counsel if the project would be approved.
Among these were the first six months of operation the convenience store would not operate on a twenty four hour basis. The project planners would do a traffic study on the effects of the project and that a traffic signal would be installed at Third Street to help with the control of traffic.
Lets look at these one at a time. I would be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts if the project is approved that after six months to store will immediately revert to twenty four hour a day operation. This of course assumes that once started the owners and contractors don't go to court and get all of the above restrictions lifted before the first brick is laid. I spoke with the PenDot engineers at one of their meetings and according to them private contractors do not have the authority to install new traffic signals on their own. They would have to work with PenDot especially on a system as complex as we have here in Oakmont with signals that are coordinated not only with traffic flow but also with the railroad that passes through town. He said that they had done a traffic study as part of the bridge project and it was deemed that there was no signal necessary at junction of Third Street and Hulton Road.
When the meetings was held to reconsider the Speedway station it was met with a large amount of resistance at which point counsel took the meeting behind closed doors much to the consternation of the attending public and with complaints from reporters in the room that by doing so the, counsel, were violating the state sunshine laws. For this reason I make my prediction that the next traffic signal in Oakmont will be at the crossing at Collage Avenue and Allegheny River Boulevard.
I'm beginning to smell the fragrance that I remember wafting my direction when the City of Pittsburgh and the county put fourth the plans for two new sports stadiums on the North Shore and the residents of both the city and the county made a resounding statement that there should be no more public money poured into supporting the local sports teams. At that time there were a number of very good alternatives for financing the new facilities that the Steelers and the Pirates were lusting after as they were making veiled threats of leaving town if they didn't get what they wanted.
Despite all of the talk and in some cases outrage that was show to keep it from happening Mayor Tom Murphy thumbed his nose at those that had elected him and made it known that the two new stadiums were going up whether we wanted them or not.
I understand not wanting the Hulton road property to lay fallow not producing any tax revenue for the borough. I do however think that we can find a better suited use for this parcel of land if we take out time and put a little effort into the search. What do you think?
Please see the following related links :
Oakmont counsel set conditions for Hulton Road gas station.
Oakmont counsel takes meeting behind closed doors
Oakmont Plum Patch