An old steel town of ragged charms
Verner was a small factory community below the McKees Rocks Bridge that developed around the long-gone Pittsburgh Forge and Iron Co. . . . All that remains is Verner Ave., which dead ends at a set of jersey barriers. (Time Unkind to Some Pittsburgh City Neighborhoods, by Bob Bauder, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
My article, Voyaging through the Hollow: The East Busway’s Singular Lens on Pittsburgh, just won a Golden Quill Award (Press Club of Western Pennsylvania).
To see the article, click the link above; and click here to see a related blog post on this mass transit curiosity.
Pittsburgh’s Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway is a distinctly local specimen of infrastructure, and a true urban curiosity. The 9.1 mile stretch lies in a hollow, next to the railroad.
The East Busway, now 30 years old, was the first buses only roadway in the U.S., and a pioneer in the Bus Rapid Transit movement. To travel the whole route—downtown to Swissvale—takes a mere 20 minutes; at rush hour buses run every two minutes. The sights go by fast for commuters, as they’re whisked home at night and to work in the morning.
But the hollow is a singular place, where nature and industry converge dramatically; to walk the hollow, on the tracks beside the busway, is to get a rare look at the city’s unique topography. (For more on this, see my article in the winter 2014 issue of Pittsburgh Quarterly, Voyaging through the Hollow: The East Busway’s Singular Lens on Pittsburgh.)
Houses next to busway (Shadyside)
Satellite Map (Imagery & Map data ©2013 Google -) . . . Street View (© 2013 Google)
Classic Pittsburgh: Houses layered in the hillside
Satellite Map (Imagery © 2013 DigitalGlobe, Sanborn, U.S. Geol. Survey, USDA Farm Svc. Agency; Map Data © 2013 Google.)
Out of the shadows, turning the curve . . . a kinetic corridor (Baum Blvd., Centre Ave. bridges)
Satellite Map (Imagery ©2013 DigitalGlobe, Sanborn, U.S. Geol. Survey, USDA Farm Svc. Agency; Map data ©2013 Google)
Satellite Map (Imagery & Map data ©2013 Google) . . . Street View (© 2013 Google)
Satellite Map (Imagery & Map Data ©2013 Google)
Satellite Map (Imagery & Map Data © 2013 Google)
The Neville Ramp is 1,800 feet long. Its foundation includes 12 “hammerhead” piers, which sit atop either steel piles or caissons—24” to 30” diameter holes which are drilled down to solid rock and filled with reinforced concrete—depending on the geologic condition found at each footing location. The foundation is composed of about 24 million pounds of concrete; while the deck contains 9.2 million pounds. The ramp’s deck and foundation together contain more than three million pounds of steel.
This information comes from Norman Voigt, a retired civil engineer who spent 25 years with the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) and was instrumental in developing the ramp.
The preliminary work required for the project included “core boring,” as part of an extensive geotechnical study. For core boring 2.5” diameter holes were drilled in multiple spots along the ramp’s footprint, then geologists analyzed the rock samples found on the drill bit at various depths, to determine the kind of material present there. This allowed them to draw a profile of the whole area—re-creating unseen layers where necessary; then they could determine where exactly to lay the foundation.
"Ten to 20 feet below the surface you get to hard, shale-like rock formations; then you run into coal seams, then sea bottom—with seashells and the like; then you hit limestone and sandstone,” said Voigt. “There are many problems with building on shale, mostly in that it’s not as hard as limestone or sandstone, which is why large foundations are usually dug down deeper.”
Telltale scraps, in the weeds around the tracks . . . Passing through the industrial corridor
Paw of industry (scooping up the light)
Herron Ave. Station (nr. Liberty Ave. & 33rd St.) . . . Next stop: Downtown
Satellite Map (Imagery ©2013 DigitalGlobe, Sanborn, U.S. Geol. Survey, USDA Farm Svc. Agency; Map data ©2013 Google) . . . Street View (©2013 Google)
An Exhilarating Sphere of Living History
Free Multimedia Presentation
January 16 at 7pm
310 Fisk St.
McVey Auditorium (Canterbury Pl. bldg., 1st fl.)
Pittsburgh, PA (directions from Google Maps)
About the Event:
"Hidden Lawrenceville" presents a folk history, combining autobiography & psychogeography; where industrial archeology & candid photography meet on the street, down by the waterfront, and wherever the thrall of enigma beckons.
The presentation grew out of a series on this blog entitled Exile in America; about my rediscovery of Pittsburgh, where I was born and raised and to which I returned after being away for 25 years. (My name by the way, Eisenstat, means “iron city” in German.)
To learn more about the Lawrenceville Historical Society, visit Lhs15201.org.
My Recently Published Work:
Stairway to Pittsburgh: Lawrenceville & Bloomfield Steps (photo essay, The Bulletin)
Voyaging Through the Hollow: The East Busway’s Singular Lens on Pittsburgh (article, Pittsburgh Quarterly . . . Related blog post)
Please share this post with anyone you think might be interested in the event or the topics covered. (Click the envelope mail icon bel.)