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Wood Street Corridor to bloom with trees, lighting, signage and more

An 18-month construction project to revitalize the streetscape along Wood Street will get underway this summer and is expected to be complete by the end of 2011.

The University was awarded a $3.95 million grant from its Pennsylvania Community Transportation Initiative for the upgrades and enhancements. The grant was the largest of 50 awarded throughout the state and will fund such improvements as new trees, milling and resurfacing of the street, installation of accessible sidewalks and curbs, the addition of distinctive pedestrian-scaled street lighting and new and efficient signaling systems at the intersections with the Boulevard of the Allies and Third Avenue.

With the help of a grant from the Heinz Endowments, the University engaged GAI Consultants Inc., a Pittsburgh-based engineering firm, to design the streetscape improvements, which will extend from Fort Pitt Boulevard to Third Avenue.

According to Elmer Burger, university architect, the streetscape will complement design plans for the urban park that will be built at the corner of Wood Street and the Blvd. of the Allies. Architects for the park are Tasso Katselas Associates (TKA) Inc. and Klavon Design, both Pittsburgh-based architectural firms.

Frontier elm treeFrontier Elms will line Pioneers' campus

One of the most literal signs of growth along Wood Street will be the addition of many new Frontier Elm trees, a variety that thrives in urban environments while providing lovely bark and foliage, says Burger.

"We worked with Pittsburgh's arborists and the city tree program to select the Frontier Elm for Wood Street," says Burger. "It was chosen because it is an urban hearty tree that will also provide a distinctive look for the University neighborhood. These trees will be deep green in the summer and bright red in the fall, which will look beautiful lining the street."

Wherever the infrastructure permits, the University is using an environmentally-friendly, Silva Cell system to plant the trees, says Burger. Silva Cells are plastic crates that create an underground frame for the roots of urban trees. The planting system bears traffic loads, catches additional rainwater, and offers more rootable space that allows urban trees to grow into large and beautiful specimens.

Improved lighting, street surfaces and safety

The planned lighting includes two different types. Intersections with traffic signals will have a tall post and square fixture, "because those posts hold the arms that hold the signals," says Burger. The signaling at the intersections will include timed boxes and sound devices for increased safety.

Dark green or black post lights, featuring acorn shaped lamps, will line the other parts of the street and are similar to those found in nearby Market Square, says Burger. "We'll also be using energy-saving LED fixtures."

The sidewalks will feature exposed aggregate concrete in warm brown. Granite curbs at the street corners will provide improved accessibility and will be engraved with both street names and Point Park University. Crosswalks will feature stained concrete that has been scored in a decorative pattern. The new tactile surfaces along the sidewalks and street will also boost safety for pedestrians, says Burger.

Finally, the construction will enable the extension of fiberoptics for Point Park's offices and classrooms under the Boulevard of the Allies, to replace the wireless system currently in place.

The upgrades to the Wood Street Corridor will not only provide a pleasant environment, says Burger, "but it will be one of the first visual cues that visitors are in the University's neighborhood--someplace special."

Article by Cheryl Valyo