VICTORY! Swissvale Bridge Will Open To Pedestrians

image description: a photo of the blue Washington Ave bridge and the East Busway below, with white letters superimposed overtop that say “A WIN!”

Swissvale residents are successful with a community petition to reopen the Washington Ave. bridge to pedestrians – now it’s time to dream!

Last week, on July 7th at around 7pm, PennDOT ordered the Washington Ave Bridge in Swissvale to close IMMEDIATELY to all traffic. According to a recent Post Gazette article, “Days prior, on Thursday, a woman reported feeling movement on the bridge as she drove over it,”.

The bridge is owned by the railroad company Norfolk Southern. The company had let the bridge deteriorate to the point of near unusability, and now, a vital community connection was lost. The unannounced closure had a huge impact on pedestrian access to transit lines on the East Busway, and small businesses in Swissvale’s center. Suddenly, a walk that was typically 5 or 10 minutes would now take 15 minutes to a half hour. This distance was not only a huge inconvenience to transit riders in Swissvale, it became an insurmountable obstacle to neighbors who have difficulty walking.

Swissvale Community Action is a local community group that quickly got organized. They worked with PPT to launch a petition demanding pedestrian access to be restored quickly.

Within 24 hours, the peition had collected nearly 200 signatures and caught the attention of WPXI who aired a news report on Wednesday night, and of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board who published a Thursday-morning editorial.

image description: screen capture from news story that aired on WPXI about the community petition to reestablish pedestrian access.

“If you have any kind of mobility issues, or if you have to work a second job, this could potentially ruin your life…. Before it took me about 45 minutes to get to work, yesterday it took me an hour and a half to get home.” – Hannah Bailey

Hanna Bailey, Swissvale Resident, Transit Rider, and Swissvale Community Action Member

The organizing push was so hard that memes (yes, memes) even happened:

image description: a meme created by a Swissvale resident. Text reads “No way to the busway!?” with a link to the image on the left is a grayscale illustration of a cartoon bus with a sad face passing by an empty bus stop, a speech bubble is coming from the bus that says “Where are all my friends?”. The second image shows the closed-down bridge with a speech bubble that says “Since they won’t fix me, no one can get to the station.” A second speech bubble says “but YOU can help restore access! Sign the petition!”

By the afternoon of July 14th, the PennDOT had announced that the bridge was deemed safe for pedestrian access and that the bridge would open that afternoon.

Check out this article from the Post-Gazette on the reopening announcement. The article also announces that next steps on the closure will be up for discussion at an upcoming public meeting, but does not include a date. However, a source confirmed with PPT that the article is referencing the next Swissvale Borough Council Agenda meeting on July 27 at 7pm. Here’s more info on how to attend that meeting.

BUT WE WON’T STOP HERE! Now is the time to keep organizing for better transit access. So tell us, how can transit access be improved to better serve Swissvale and the towns that surround it?

More frequent transit? Better sidewalks? More Trees? Better bus stops? Affordable housing? If you live and frequent this community, please take two minutes to help build this vision for transit access can be improved: