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(E) Saving the first Croatian Church in the USA
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  07/22/2003 | Community | Unrated
(E) Saving the first Croatian Church in the USA


Saving  the first Croatian Roman Catholic parish in the United States

New plans put forward for Route 28
Latest changes would save St. Nicholas [Croatian Church], Millvale Industrial Park
Tuesday, July 15, 2003

By Joe Grata, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A new Route 28 in Pittsburgh could be an elevated, six-lane expressway sitting
about 30 feet above the present highway.

A modified version could rebuild the old road at the present location and
elevation, limit traffic to 40 mph and leaves the church with a 5-foot-wide
sidewalk in front.

In either case, signals would still be eliminated and diamond-shaped
interchanges would be built at the 31st Street and 40th Street bridges, traffic
choke points for more than 60,000 drivers a day.

The two alternatives to reconstruct a dangerous, two-mile stretch of Route 28
between the North Side and Millvale were disclosed yesterday.

Cost estimates range from $160 million to $200 million, saving not only St.
Nicholas Church -- the first Croatian Roman Catholic parish in the United
States -- but also Millvale Industrial Park, both of which abut the present
four-lane road that serves as an extension of East Ohio Street.

Motorists aren't likely to see improvement soon to rush-hour traffic that flows
slower than the ketchup made by Heinz Corp., whose Pittsburgh facilities also
border the stretch.

A timetable released by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation shows
three years of construction would not start before 2008.

And building a new intersection to eliminate traffic lights between Chestnut
and East Streets to create nonstop traffic between Route 28 and I-279 or I-579
is a separate project.

PennDOT held the private meeting for public officials at the Department of
Environmental Protection building on Washington Landing. A public open house
will be held from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Boathouse on the one-time
Herrs Island.

"There's a lot of work to do yet," said Tom Fox, PennDOT assistant executive
for design. "A lot of decisions have to be made."

PennDOT is offering the new alternatives along with two old proposals that
would eliminate St. Nicholas and the industrial park.

They came in response to controversy over the fate of St. Nicholas, scarring
the hillside next to Route 28, taking houses on Troy Hill and building miles of
monolithic concrete retaining walls to "shoehorn" the city end of what is also
known as the Allegheny Valley Expressway into the tight corridor, with the
steep hill on one side and Norfolk Southern Railway tracks on the other side.

"If the 31st Street and 40th Street bridges weren't there, this would be a
piece of cake," PennDOT planning engineer Todd Kravits said.

No matter which alternative is advanced to final design and 80 percent federal
funding, some things are the same or similar in all four of them:

About 80 houses would be acquired and razed, including those on the southern
side of Eggers Street atop Troy Hill, since they would be left sitting too
close to the edge of new hillside excavation.

Rialto Street and the intersection across from the 31st Street Bridge would be
saved at the insistence of city officials and Troy Hill residents.

As many as two dozen business buildings would be razed, although federal law
requires PennDOT take steps to re-establish them the same as relocating

About 235 privately owned properties would be affected, wholly or in part,
although most of them are vacant.

"Even if we didn't touch the hillside, people couldn't get to their homes
[along the northern curb of Route 28]," said Justin Smith, project manager for
Michael Baker Inc., PennDOT project consultant, because of federal requirements
that when Route 28 is rebuilt, it must be rebuilt as a limited-access highway.

Under the two new alternatives, St. Nicholas Church and Millvale Industrial
Park would get service roads leading from existing, local streets. A new
parking lot would be built for St. Nicholas.

"The new alternatives are affordable, move traffic and save the church and
industrial park," Fox noted, although the modified alternative "won't provide
the high-speed access we envisioned" when Route 28 planning got under way years

The alternative that proposes the elevated roadway in front of St. Nicholas was
described as a modification of an idea suggested by Dr. George White, a retired
civil engineering professor who chairs the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks
Foundation's transportation committee.

He recommended building the northbound lanes entirely over the railroad tracks,
and the southbound lanes on the existing Route 28, saving a strip of it as a
local access road.

"PennDOT's bulldozer solution doesn't make sense," he said. "The air rights
over the tracks present a handsome opportunity for an elevated highway that
solves all of the problems of Route 28 without an ugly, two-mile retaining
wall, undercutting foundations and taking the church."

PennDOT engineers said they proposed to incorporate White's idea by "bubbling
out" the northbound lanes over the railroad in two areas near St. Nicholas and
Millvale Industrial Park to save them. That alone, they said, will cost about
$40 million extra.

From: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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