Sen. Casey & Rep. Lee announce grant designed to ‘right a wrong,’ reconnect Manchester with Chateau (Union Progress)

For nearly 10 years, residents in Pittsburgh’s Manchester neighborhood have been pushing the idea of reconnecting with Chateau, an adjoining neighborhood forcibly created as the state pursued plans to build Route 65 (Ohio River Boulevard) beginning in the late 1960s.

Now, with the help of a $1.4 million federal Department of Transportation grant, the formal planning can begin. Neighborhood leaders from Pittsburgh’s North Side gathered with federal, state, Allegheny County and Pittsburgh officials Friday to celebrate the grant from the new Reconnecting Communities program created under the Biden administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 

“As we celebrate this investment — long overdue, by the way — it’s tempered by the reality of what happened here,” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said during a news conference in the lobby of the greenhouse at the Manchester Bidwell Corp. “We’re here to bridge a divide. We’re also here to right a wrong that has existed for far too long.”

Through the window behind Casey, the problem was obvious: the 15-foot raised roadway that carries Ohio River Boulevard from the Fort Duquesne Bridge through the North Side. It opened in the early 1990s after decades of planning and property acquisition that ripped through the predominantly black community and cut off many of the neighborhood streets that once crisscrossed through the area.

U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-Swissvale, was more succinct, calling construction of the highway “a case study in urban planning gone wrong.”

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the highway was intended to “connect people from far away, but it ended up cutting off people close by.”

“The real reason to connect it again is the people,” said Mayor Ed Gainey. “It’s time we rebuild and connect things.”

The planning grant, which will be administered jointly by the city planning department and Manchester Citizens Corp., will help fund a $1.8 million feasibility study to determine the best way to reconnect the neighborhoods. As LaShawn Burton-Faulk, executive director of Manchester Citizens, put it, the grant will allow the neighborhood to “confront our past mistakes and decisions.”

After the news conference, Burton-Faulk and Kevin Jenkins, chief executive officer of Manchester Bidwell Corp., said they don’t have a preferred method of reconnecting the neighborhoods. One possibility is redesigning Ohio River Boulevard into a true street-level boulevard that would allow for intersections with cross streets.

“My preference is whatever the people want,” Burton-Faulk said. “I want connections. That’s the whole goal here.”

Jenkins said there is no firm timetable to complete the study and move on to construction.

“This is 10-plus years of work to get here,” he said. “I believe there is some urgency to help this project along.”

Casey acknowledged the planning grant is the first step and likely will be followed by a request for funding to implement the recommendations.

“We’re going to have to be advocating for additional funds for the future, and I will do that,” he said.

Across the country, the Department of Transportation awarded grants to 45 projects worth $185 million, most of them planning grants. Overall, the program has $5 billion to spend over five years, including construction funds. 

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