Submitted by Gloria Rayman

It seems like it’s been years since we finished the actual construction of the sidewalks and replaced the trees and most of the lights on Western Avenue…and it has been! However the last pieces of the Western Renewed! puzzle seem to finally be coming together. All it took was a face to face meeting with State Senator Fontana (remember that Duquesne Light is regulated by the state…buy me a drink at the Memorial Day picnic and I’ll tell you about the meeting!). A great big thank you to Senator Fontana for meeting with us and to the North Side Leadership Conference for herding the participants to make the meeting happen.

So, after 10 years of pushing Duquesne Light to do their part of the project, we’re coming close to finishing it up! What’s left to do?

If you remember, the original plan was not only to make our sidewalks safe (no more skate board ramps created by tree roots) and to plant trees appropriate for a city sidewalk; the plan also included removing all of the overhead wires from Western Avenue. We’ve accomplished that in the 900 block of Western because all of the buildings on the north curb of the street already had their electric service entering from the Dounton Way; the few buildings on the south curb of the 900 block that had electric service coming from the front were relatively easy to move to Maolis Way. Wires gone!! All of the street lights were installed in the 900 block of Western. However the 800 block of Western is another story completely. From my point of view, a horror story! 😉

Approximately 12 properties on the north curb of the 800 block of Western Avenue receive power from the front. Not a big deal until you realize that most of these properties are land locked! The 800 block of Dounton Way has houses fronting Dounton creating a land locked courtyard area in between the “front” and “back” houses. And McIntosh Row (806-818 Western Avenue) is landlocked by the properties fronting Brighton Road. No big deal, just run some new wires in the back, right? Um, no.

Thank heavens the city electric code is completely different now than it was when most of these houses were built. No more running wires just a few feet over a roof or stringing it between buildings where there is most likely a window (even if a human couldn’t hang out of it to grab onto the high voltage wire). Safety first! Did I mention that the city electric code has been updated almost every year for the past 10 years and this year it seems likes it’s a major upgrade…

The south curb of the 800 block of Western has been completed. It’s just these last few properties on the north curb that need to have their electric service relocated to the rear of the property in order to nally take down all of the wires and install approximately 8 new light posts (did you ever notice that both blocks of the south curb and the north curb of the 900 block have taller pendant street lights in addition to the regular street lights?) We can’t install these last few pendant lights on the north curb of the 800 block until the wires come down; the tops of these lights would be in the high voltage wires – that’s a problem.

So you’re going to see some movement over these next few weeks. Some of it will make absolutely no sense to you (it’s hard for me to grasp at times) but the electric grid in the city is very complex and in my humble opinion, just crazy. We’re going to tackle a few issues at the same time so that some temporary equipment can be installed, new poles can be installed and new wires run – quickly and efficiently. There will be at least one temporary pole installed and removed.

    1. Duquesne Light will install a temporary pole in the sidewalk on the property line in front of 942 & 944 W North Avenue. It will be a 60’ pole, roughly as tall as the neighboring existing poles. It will host temporary equipment and will be removed and the sidewalk returned to its current condition once the work is done to get power down Brighton Rd. to Western Ave. No trees will have to be removed; the only tree affected is the one on the property line of 942 & 944 W North Avenue. One branch that is currently in the electric wires will have to be trimmed while the rest of the limbs will be temporarily bungeed while the pole is being installed so as to not break any additional branches. Duquesne Light will bungee it again for a short time when the pole is being removed. There will be traffic restrictions on W North Avenue the day the pole is installed and removed. It shouldn’t take them very long to do this.
    2. At the southwest corner of Brighton Road and W North Avenue, a new pole will replace the existing rusty steel pole at that same corner with a new guide wire that will clear the sidewalk and be anchored in at the property-side of the sidewalk. This decreases the impact that pole will have on any future development at that property.
    3. Three new poles will be installed on the east curb of Brighton Road between W North and Western Avenues. The poles that are being replaced have white X’s on them right now. City Forester Lisa Ceoffe is coordinating with Duquesne Light and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to make sure that the trees along Brighton Road in Allegheny Commons are trimmed sensitively and aesthetically to allow the work to happen. Some of us expect to see Erin Tobin from the Parks Conservancy right alongside the folks trimming these trees to make sure they are trimmed carefully, not the usual gut job. Erin rocks!
    4. We will install a pole in the garden at the corner of Western Avenue and Brighton Road and remove the one shrub that is marked with white spray paint. It’s in the back corner of the garden and will not cause us to have to remove any of the beautiful plantings. We also have one other pole to install off of Dounton Way but nothing needs to be removed to install this pole.
    5. Duquesne Light’s work will start in the next week or two, with new poles going in along Brighton Road, but nothing can be energized until the drawings are revised and approved; the temporary pole and equipment is installed; and the trees in Allegheny Commons are trimmed. We have an architect and electrician already working on the drawings.
    6. Duquesne Light and the North Side Leadership Conference (our project manager) will make sure to coordinate with the owners of 907 and 913 Brighton Road whenever their power has to be switched over. We didn’t have any issues switching over any of the other 15+ properties; we don’t expect any with these either – these actually should be easier. The temporary pole on W North Avenue will come down and we will then move on to actually powering up McIntosh Row and the final few gridlocked properties.

As we get closer to removing the wires and poles from Western Avenue, I’ll be sending out another email. Thank you to everyone for their patience and cooperation as this long-planned project draws to a close.

Gloria Rayman
WANID Chair (and obvious glutton for punishment)