It’s time for Bigelow Boulevard to begin its transformation.
Work begins Friday, Nov. 1, on a nine-month project that will beautify the center of campus, improve safety and accessibility and upgrade utility infrastructure to support future campus development. The multiphase project, which also includes the William Pitt Union grounds, is scheduled to wrap up in mid-August—in time to add wow to Welcome Week before students return for the fall 2020 term.
The block of Bigelow Boulevard between Fifth and Forbes avenues will be closed until the project is completed.
Bookmark the Bigelow Block Transformation Project website to follow the project timeline and view updates as work progresses. Have questions? There’s a simple form for asking anything that’s not covered in the FAQs.
Pitt is partnering with the City of Pittsburgh, which owns Bigelow Boulevard, in order to align much-needed infrastructure work with the streetscaping plan for a project in development for years. Crews are scheduling as much of the work as possible over summer months and while classes aren’t in session. Coordinating the work as one project rather than two decreases costs and minimizes disruption.
Heavier traffic and pedestrian detours around the construction work are expected to cause some inconvenience, but now—as a new campus master plan is implemented—is the optimal time to do this work, said Greg Scott, senior vice chancellor for business and operations.
“It’s fitting to start in this very connected area at the heart of the campus—an area important to students and to the University’s connections with the community,” he said.
“This block is a physical connection—with Oakland and with Schenley Plaza—plus we’re bringing people together to connect not just in terms of physically getting there, but on a human level as well,” he said.
The new street design aims to calm traffic and create safer conditions for the thousands of pedestrians who cross Bigelow each day.
“We’re creating a campus destination by making the block more welcoming and pedestrian friendly,” Scott said. “This project will provide a new transportation and mobility pattern, focused on improved safety along with welcoming aesthetics,” he added.
The design is focused on sustainability and mobility in accord with the city’s Complete Streets approach, which takes into account all modes of travel—walking, biking, taking transit and driving—in designing streets.
“The design is focused on sustainability and mobility,” Scott said, citing the project’s stormwater management features and the addition of dozens of trees around the William Pitt Union. “It’s a very visible sign that the University is serious about sustainability efforts.”
The project’s focus goes beyond better street connections. The plan will improve program space for student activities in front of the William Pitt Union as well.
Citing last year’s renovations to the Schenley Quad, Scott said, “As we’ve seen in the Quad, the new design is bringing people together to sit, to work, to study in a quiet, beautiful space.
“Envision that extending to the front of the William Pitt Union. I’m excited about creating another attractive space in the middle of this urban setting to give students more space to gather and participate in activities.”
Scott said, “This project will advance the master plan and enhance the campus. We often think of the master plan in terms of buildings, but it’s not just about buildings. It’s also about the experience in between the buildings—where faculty, staff, students and families come together.
“This design continues creating a sense of place in a coordinated and cohesive way,” he said. “And there will be more to come when the Student Rec Center is built and the O’Hara Street corridor is updated. There’s going to be a distinct Pitt-like feel.”
Another crucial component of the project involves connections that lie beneath the surface. “This is a heavy, heavy area for utility connections, both under the street and under the William Pitt Union lawn,” Scott said.
“Our infrastructure is aging and sometimes failing,” Scott said. “That causes unplanned road closures and outages that are inconvenient and expensive—and they put research at risk,” he said. “It’s imperative that we have systems that are both robust and resilient.”
In addition to replacing aged utilities, the project includes installing electrical power duct banks and chilled-water lines to prepare for future growth. “The overall systems are the piece of the puzzle that needs to be in place to have all these additional amenities,” Scott said.
“We’re now building the campus of the future. This is work that supports our mission. We want to attract and retain the best students, faculty and staff. Keeping the campus infrastructure optimized and the physical plant working at the very highest level is crucial as we plan for the future.”