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Best, Safe Most Direct Route from Airport to Start of GAP

This topic contains 50 replies, has 19 voices, and was last updated by  StuInMcCandless 1 yr, 1 mo.

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anniebikes

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Jun 12 2013 at 10:17am #

I’m very excited to ride GAPCO this September. Because of logistics we will start from a hotel near the Pittsburgh airport. I am looking for the quickest, safest, most direct route to downtown and Point State Park. We’d like to ride The GAP from it’s beginning and at the same time see downtown as we pass through. We’ve never been to Pittsburgh.

It looks like I can connect with the Montour Trail and take it to Coraopolis, then ride on Neville Island. From there it looks like I follow a route to Stowe.

This is where the map looks sketchy with cautionary routes marked on your (amazing resource, BTW) map. I don’t know whether to head across the Ohio River and try to follow the zigzag bike routes to downtown or stay south of the river and follow the more direct path, but longer red marked route along Carson Street.

What would a local rider suggest?


jonawebb

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Jun 12 2013 at 10:26am #

I would take the 21 bus in from Neville Island — sorry if this interrupts your plans to bike in — but it’s much safer. If you really really want to bike in I would suggest crossing the Ohio River on the McKees Rocks bridge and then ride in along the north shore of the Ohio. See http://ridewithgps.com/routes/2256759 for a 200K ride that included the route I’m thinking of.
The connection to Pittsburgh from the west is a real problem that’s been the subject of ongoing discussions here. West Carson Street in particular is dangerous. I’ve ridden it but I can’t recommend it to anyone.


sarapgh2

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Jun 12 2013 at 10:31am #

I would echo jonawebb, unless you are real stickler – and that section isn’t part of the GAP- I would not bike in. Take a bus, shuttle, etc. A taxi is going to cost about $60 one way.

Also know that some of the downtown hotels – Courtyard Marriott – have GAP rates that are lower than online and probably on par or lower than your airport rate.


rsprake

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Jun 12 2013 at 10:49am #

You can also catch a bus from the airport that will take you directly to downtown and the start of the GAP.


Vannevar

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Jun 12 2013 at 11:11am #

Hello Annie, personally I often ride from Coryopolis, Neville Island, Rt51 to Station Square and join the trail there. It is NOT bike friendly, it’s not Pgh-visitor friendly, and it’s not the best way to start off a relaxing non-road ride.

Can I make an offer/suggestion? (1) get a local rider to escort your group (2) get a local rider with a van and a bike rack to deliver you to the Point.

I’m willing to do either, and I’m probably available in Sept – or one of my bikes-buddies is. PM me if you’re interested – but I’m pretty sure somebody else would step up if needed. Cheers, Van.


StuInMcCandless

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Jun 12 2013 at 12:01pm #

West Carson Street from McKees Rocks to Station Square is a miserable piece of road. Avoid it. The McKees Rocks Bridge itself is ridable, though it’s rather busy. There is a sidewalk, but it’s narrow, and has several odd 90-degree bends. I’ve ridden the MRB roadway several times. There is plenty of room, but traffic speeds of 50+ mph make it unpleasant.

Absolutely do not ride PA65 from the MRB towards town; it’s an expressway. Cross 65. From there, you have a couple of options. One is Termon Ave Extension, a very/too wide brick street only 1/4 mile long to get you up to Calif Ave. It’s OK, but there’s another option: The Davis Street steps, almost in sight from the MRB/PA65 corner. If you don’t mind lugging your bike up a set of steps, you can instantly be out of traffic and into a quiet neighborhood.

Davis, cross California, right onto Fleming (moderate downhill), left Antrim (brief steep downhill), right McClure, then right-or-left at Eckert to get around the prison, and pick up the trail. Smooth sailing from there into the city. Cross any of several bridges and you’re downtown.


anniebikes

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Jun 12 2013 at 12:35pm #

All of you have such awesome suggestions. We’re not opposed to navigating steps and by no means will we ride 51/W. Carson, as suggested. It sounds like an amazing community of bike riders…

So here’s my dilemma, and maybe this will help with further route suggestions. Two of us need to spend a night in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept 19 with 3 bikes and panniers. Third participant drives to DC and flies to Pittsburgh around noon on Friday, Sept 20. I’m trying to find lodging that’s reasonable (not over 150.00?) that gets us within safe riding distance to start of GAP but also makes it convenient for the flier to reach us without major travel hiccup (they’re already accommodating us by shuttling the car). We need to bike at least 30 miles (I think) on Friday to reach camping facilities on GAP.

Fairfield Inn on Neville Island seemed like good placement. It puts us on a bike route and is equidistant between airport and downtown. Shuttler could catch up with a taxi ride.

What do you all think?

PS. We start from Burlington, VT. Glad to be coming your way in the fall. I’m Annie from anniebikes.blogspot.com


Swalfoort

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Jun 12 2013 at 12:53pm #

Annie, it’s a roundabout way to do things, but the Fairfield on Neville is an option that makes some sense. You’d take the Airport Spur to Montour Trail to MP 0 at Groveton, then ride a mile or so back into Coraopolis (which has a small bike shop) to cross the Bridge at Ferry Street, and then about a mile or so BACk to the Fairfield on Neville Island. I live not far from there and have had out of town overflow guests stay at the Fairfield. It is fine, and has a great pool and hot tub, although you won’t need them that early in yoru trip.

The problem is the trip into downtown from there. You can ride south on Neville Island (fast, flat, big trucks but decent riding), then cross the small Fleming Bridge (we need to be sure it will not be under construction at the time of your visit) then immediately veer onto the side street that parallels Route 51. That keeps you off of Route 51 for a few blocks, but you will eventually need to be on Route 51 for a few blocks, to the McKees Rocks Bridge.

Cross the McKees Rocks Bridge (not the adventure it once was) and look for small set of steps heading up and to the right just past the intersection at the far end. Follow 20 steps to end of Davis Avenue. From Davis you can get to California (for a road based pleasant route) to downtown, or to Fleming or McClure for a route that will take you via road and trail into downtown. From the McKees Rocks bridge, it’s probably a 30 minute ride. From the hotel, it’s only 40-50 minutes, and with the exception of about 3-4 blocks on Route 51 on the north end of the Bridge, it’s very bikeable.

I like the Fairfield as a jumping off location for you.

I can post more detailed directions from the Fairfield to downtown, if you opt to go that route.


Swalfoort

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Jun 12 2013 at 1:09pm #

Annie,

I am sensing that you are asking one question here, and a second question is being answered, perhaps.

Is the party of 2 who arrive on Day 1 also arriving by air? Or do they want to be near the airport to meet up with Person 3?

Will the ride on the GAP (with all 3 in the party) be considered to start AT the hotel? Or at the airport? Or at the Point, where the GAP starts.

We can (and will, in multiple routings) answer any and all “how to get there” questions you may want to ask. I just want to be sure I understand the question you need answered!


Chris Mayhew

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Jun 12 2013 at 1:58pm #

You could easily get in a beautiful and safe ride from the airport to downtown. It’s one of my regular routes.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/197236338

W. Carson sucks but it’s only for a couple of miles.


buffalo buffalo

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Jun 12 2013 at 2:17pm #

You might also consider Couchsurfing to find a place to stay. There’s a pretty large local community: https://www.couchsurfing.org/n/places/pittsburgh-pennsylvania-united-states
(it’s considered more appropriate to message individual potential hosts, but you can also post a broadcast request in the ‘seeking couches’ group at https://www.couchsurfing.org/group.html?gid=12541)


edmonds59

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Jun 12 2013 at 2:31pm #

^What Swalfoort said.


byogman

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Jun 12 2013 at 2:39pm #

Everyone has a different tolerance for bad conditions in terms of traffic speed, clearances, and general driver behavior. Not knowing Annie, maybe it is within her tolerance, but I think that would be a terrible first assumption.

I don’t have a compelling need to ride it, but if I did have to get out or come back from that way and had any reasonable amount of time, I would try to avoid it like the plague, choosing jonawebb’s route instead.

It’s interesting to note, this is exactly what we were worried about when there was the suggestion to just slap sharrows on it and and call it a route, that someone coming in from the outside would be tempted by its directness.

Annie, if this has been a frustrating thing to hear and in any way dampened your enthusiasm for going through downtown, and you are willing to make your opinions felt on the matter in a way that might help the local PGH bike community, would much appreciate if you could write a little something on the subject.

It’s one thing for us to make this point, but having the bike tourist dollars angle as part of the case for making this link decent, in an opinion written by a bike tourist, I’d think would have some more sway.

Now, question for the boards, who to address the letter to? Who would be simultaneously most receptive to that message and most able to influence what gets done as a westward connection on the south bank of the Ohio?

Annie, have a great ride. Sorry for this annoyance at the start, but the GAP itself is great.


melange396

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Jun 12 2013 at 2:49pm #

what @rsprake said ^

the 28x bus will take you from the airport to downtown (very close to the point), it runs every 20-30 mins, it should cost like $3 each, it should take 45 mins or less, it will have space for your baggage, and it should have a 2-bike rack on the front. quick, cheap, safe, and easy! also, that way you can start your trail trip properly without dealing with asshats on sketchy roads.

the only issue i see is that you appear to have more bikes than the built in rack will fit… you may be able to sweet talk the driver to let you wheel one on, or you could split up for a little bit and take the next bus that comes along.


Benzo

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Jun 12 2013 at 3:25pm #

If time was on your side, you prefer calmer routes, and you were not in a hurry, you could take the mountour trail. I would ride the airport connector to the main montour trail and head south, ride road detours at the end of the trail to clariton and ride up to mckeesport to connect to the GAP trail and then ride west in to the city from there. It’s a roundabout way to do it, but it’s going to keep you mostly off the dangerous routes.


sarapgh2

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Jun 12 2013 at 4:02pm #

Annie – look for a PM from me.


anniebikes

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Jun 12 2013 at 4:31pm #

I’m sorry for not being clear. We are all coming in one car. Two people and three bikes will be dropped off somewhere in Pittsburgh. Third person continues on to DC, then flies back the next day to meet up and all three of us start our bike journey from Pittsburgh on the GAP.

We would all be comfortable in a hotel because of privacy and needing safe storage for three bikes. I will also contact Courtyard Marriott downtown to inquire about GAP rates. That’s a great idea also.

The Montour trail looks wonderful, however it adds too many miles onto our route for the first day. After an hour or two in Pittsburgh, we’ll need to keep moving to reach a camp site by nightfall. As it is we lose half a day because of the car shuttle/plane flight.

You’re all very helpful.


Mikhail

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Jun 12 2013 at 4:33pm #

Chris Mayhew wrote:You could easily get in a beautiful and safe ride from the airport to downtown. It’s one of my regular routes.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/197236338

W. Carson sucks but it’s only for a couple of miles.

There are a couple of climbs. So we need ask Annie if those climbs are OK.


Steven

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Jun 12 2013 at 5:46pm #

If you’re arriving by car, just stay downtown, or on the North Shore, South Side or even the East End. Biking in from the airport just complicates things. Drop off your bikes and 2 people at a hotel convenient to the start of the trail (most any within a few miles of downtown should be OK), and have the third person take a bus or cab from the airport to your hotel.


Swalfoort

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Jun 12 2013 at 8:04pm #

Ok, understanding your need a little better…..

I jumped on kayak (www.kayak.com) and checked hotel availability on the days I think you mentioned (9/19-9/20)

Knowing your desired price range of less than $150, and your intended plans, these are the hotels I would suggest you think about (listed in order of price, low to high)

Quality Inn, University Center – located in Oakland, about 3 miles east of downtown. You could easily ride back INTO town and then pick up the GAP back outbound, or just pick up the GAP at the Hot Metal Bridge (but you want to start from downtown.. believe me, you do). This has the advantage of being on the 28X Airport bus route — for something less than $4, your companion can get from the airport to within a couple blocks of the hotel in less than an hour.

Holiday Inn, Pittsburgh Waterfront – less reasonable in terms of distance from downtown (more like 8-10 miles) but has the benefit of being literally ON the GAP.

Wyndham, University Center – again, in Oakland, about 3 miles east of downtown. All downhill between Oakland and downtown, headed westbound (to the start of the GAP). See above re: route 28X bus availability.

Hilton Garden Inn, University Center – see comments above

When I looked a little bit ago, the kayak/priceline listing included an availability in your price range at The Priory. If it is still there, it won’t last long at that rate. It may be a tiny little bit of a splurge, but this small inn is located on the North Side of Pittsburgh, a half mile from downtown. This is a reconditioned religious house, with the associated church now being used for events like weddings. The couple who own The Priory are supporters of the Pittsburgh bike community, and would (presumably) be more than willing to accommodate any special bike related needs. I’ve been there for a few events (didn’t they provide a rest stop on the Tweed Ride?), but never stayed there. But my recollection is that their baked goods were all home made and to die for. If there is time and money for a small splurge (like up to your $150 limit) I’d probably recommend this option. Again, any downtown shuttle or the 28X bus will get your friend within a mile. The GAP starts about a mile from The Priory, and you’d get to ride over one of Pittsburgh’s Three Sisters Bridges to start your ride.


StuInMcCandless

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Jun 12 2013 at 8:42pm #

Page 4 of the Crush The Commonwealth 2013 thread has a discussion of available hotels. That thread was specific to trying to get to Point State Park at 5am, but the background info can still be applied to Annie’s question about hotel availability.


paulheckbert

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Jun 12 2013 at 9:20pm #

I’ve biked between the Montour Trail and downtown and the route @jonawebb described is probably the best: Coraopolis – Neville Island – McKees Rocks – McKees Rocks Bridge (sidewalk recommended) – North Shore trail (aka Chateau Trail) – Fort Duquesne Bridge – Point. The only really unpleasant part of that is about 1.5 miles on Route 51 in McKees Rocks.

Some of the sights along the way:
huge inflatable golf dome at Robert Morris University, NW end of Neville Island;
scrap metal yard on Grand Ave, N.I. (big pile of refrigerators);
Shenango Coke Works on N.I.;
beautiful old churches on Helen St in McKees Rocks (Ukranian Orthodox, Byzantine, …);
McKees Rocks Bridge;
ALCOSAN;
old penitentiary;
marinas;
views of downtown Pittsburgh;
Science Center with submarine;
Heinz Field;
statue of Mister Rogers.


buffalo buffalo

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Jun 12 2013 at 9:33pm #

Also worth considering on the B&B side is the Parador Inn, on Western Ave in Allegheny West–slightly farther from downtown, it’d be a half-hour walk from the 28X stop at Gateway Station (rather than 20 minutes from Wood Street to the Priory).
Fabulous place, all rooms $150 (and they’re huge). My ex’s mom and uncles stayed here multiple times and loved everything about it. http://theparadorinn.com/


Steven

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Jun 12 2013 at 10:48pm #

If a walk sounds unappealing, the cyclist arriving from the airport can also transfer downtown from the 28X Airport Flyer to another bus for 75 cents more. Pittsburgh’s bus system is included in Google Transit (click the bus icon there to see the route), and our public transit system’s web site has its own route finder too.


anniebikes

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Jun 13 2013 at 4:01pm #

Thank you everyone for your comments and suggestions. Special thanks to Swalfoort. I wanted to stay at the Priory, but there was only one bed. I booked at the Quality Inn/University. It’s very convenient for drop off from route #376, which will allow our driver to continue on easily on I-70. Direct bus routing from airport also. In addition, it allows us to only pedal 3 miles to start of GAP. My girlfriend and I can tootle around on our bikes downtown for a few hours, sightseeing, then we’ll know our way around a bit by the time we all set off with loaded bikes.


Mikhail

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Jun 13 2013 at 5:44pm #

anniebikes wrote:Quality Inn

Ha, 0.5 miles away from GAP. You can use Bates side walk to get to GAP and it’s about 3 miles away from the Point. :)


paulheckbert

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Jun 14 2013 at 7:32am #

Mikhail wrote:
Ha, 0.5 miles away from GAP. You can use Bates side walk to get to GAP and it’s about 3 miles away from the Point. :)

But because of the 130 foot elevation difference, it might be more pleasant, though longer, to get back from GAP to Quality Inn via Junction Hollow Trail – Boundary St – Joncaire St – Bates St.


melange396

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Jun 14 2013 at 10:38am #

but getting on at bates deprives them of the pleasure of biking from the point all the way to dc!


Mikhail

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Jun 18 2013 at 9:29am #

melange396 wrote:but getting on at bates deprives them of the pleasure of biking from the point all the way to dc!

They do need to start from Bates but rather use EFT as a way to get to downtown even on Thursday night.


Swalfoort

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Jun 18 2013 at 2:12pm #

If these were family members of mine, and their plans/desires were as Annie has laid them out, this is what I would probably recommend to them.

Starting at hotel, consider a very short loop through Oakland. It will be a 2-3 mile flat ride to check out the two main university campuses in the City (Pitt and CMU). The ride would head from the hotel to Forbes Avenue outbound, head east to Schenley Park, take Tech Drive to Margaret Morrison, and return to the hotel via Fifth. Very urban, but they’d see the tallest academic building in the world (Cathedral of Learning, the Carnegie Library/Museum, a piece of Schenley Park, a touch of CMU (more if they head back to Fifth via the quad rather than Margaret Morrison, etc.) and would give a reasonable flavor of “Pittsburgh.” All in a 30 minute ride.

That Oakland loop could be a standalone “shake out the kinks” ride, or a precursor to this next ride.

Assuming a starting point at the hotel, or thereabouts, head inbound (downhill) on Fifth for about a mile. This will involve urban riding. if you are tackling the GAPCO, I assume you can handle a mile in urban traffic. At the stoplight at the north end of the Birmingham Bridge, head south (left) on the bridge to the South Side. There are bike lanes on the bridge for your use and safety.

At the south end of the Bridge, turn right, heading through the historic and funky southside. This is where Pittsburgh steel history meets the social and cultural needs of the 60,000 college students in the region. Expect a bar, coffee shop and/or tatoo parlor on just about every block, along what was a traditional neighborhood main street. For the record, there is an REI located in the South Side Works complex (turn right at the intersection with Goodwill and Aldi’s (27th?); and two bike stores Teds (22nd? and Carson) and THick (14th or so, a parallel to Carson a block to the right).
Stay on Carson Street to the Smithfield Street Bridge. Consider taking an incline (funicular) ride before crossing the Smithfield Street Bridge into downtown…..

Once downtown, wander to your heart’s content. When ready, head back to Oakland via the Eliza Furnace Trail. Pick up the trail off Grant Street, between the highway and First Street. Take it back to Hot Metal Bridge, cross to Southside, then head right on Carson Street to return to Birmingham Bridge and return to hotel.

(You’ll get lots of ideas on alternate routes from Eliza Furnace Trail (aka EFT or the Jail Trail) to the hotel. They will all be reasonable. I am just offering what I would recommend to a family member contemplating a trip like yours.

If you are starting your GAPCO adventure directly from downtown, then you’ll take the Eliza Furnace Trail from the location above (off Grant Street) and head out, crossing Hot Metal Bridge and turning east at the end of the Bridge…..

The first 30 miles (or so) of the trail will be paved, and dead flat. You’ll have no problem making the distance you need to your first stop in that first day, even after doing the loop(s) above.


buffalo buffalo

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Jun 18 2013 at 2:19pm #

> there is an REI located in the South Side Works complex (turn right at the intersection with Goodwill and Aldi’s (27th?)

You’ll have to have turned left off the Birmingham Bridge to get here, since it lands between 22nd and 23rd, and it’ll be a left turn on 27th. But otherwise, spot on. Oakland loop, Southside tour, Downtown won’t give you all Pittsburgh has to offer the visitor–after ten years I’m still discovering places I’ve never been–but it’s a good taste.

(Be careful on the Birmingham Bridge, btw. About a third of the way across, the bike lane must transition across an onramp where drivers routinely exceed the 35mph speed limit by 25-50%.)


Swalfoort

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Jun 18 2013 at 2:28pm #

@Buffalo…..you are correct. I had them crossing the Birmingham Bridge, but ending at the South End of the Hot Metal Bridge. My bad. So, confirming, the Birmingham Bridge crosses at about 22nd Street, so REI is for blocks to the left from the bridge.


Steven

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Jun 18 2013 at 3:25pm #

tallest academic building in the world (Cathedral of Learning

Nitpick: Not since around 1953. Seems we’re now 4th, as of 2008.


Swalfoort

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Jun 18 2013 at 3:46pm #

@Steven, oh, the things I learn on this board! Ok, the tallest academic building outside of Russia and Japan!

Oh, and I caught another error on something I was actually going to point out to Annie.

Like many big cities, we have numbered avenues and numbered streets. In the downtown area, where you are most likely to run into them, avenues are longer, and run mostly east west. Streets tend to run north south. (To the extent that anything runs n/s OR e/w in this area.) Don’t be surprised if a street suddenly changes names, or if streets that you believe to be parallel to one another intersect. Just shake your head and marvel at the peculiarities that are Pittsburgh.

My correction from an earlier post:
The entrance to the Eliza Furnace Trail is just off of First AVENUE at Grant Street, downtown.


Steven

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Jun 18 2013 at 4:04pm #

I get annoyed whenever the news reports that something happened at the corner of Beechwood Blvd and Monitor Street, without saying which of their three intersections they mean.


Ahlir

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Jun 18 2013 at 8:46pm #

The Cathedral was the tallest academic building in the “free”  world. Moscow U had the tallest academic building in the world. (Well, during the Cold War, when such things mattered. A lot, To many people.)


StuInMcCandless

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Jun 18 2013 at 9:23pm #

I believe Pittsburgh is the only city in North America where Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue, which are parallel for some distance, intersect at a 90 degree angle.

Moscow’s really tall academic building is tall by virtue of a really thin, vacant spire. I don’t know what those buildings in Japan and China look like, but have multiple schools in each one. The C of L is fully occupied through every floor, and holds only one institution.


Swalfoort

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Jun 18 2013 at 9:38pm #

Fifth and Penn intersect as well. I consider them to be parallel routes downtown, but then Penn does that crazy circle thing in East Liberty that brings it to the intersection with Fifth near Bakery Square.


buffalo buffalo

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Jun 18 2013 at 9:47pm #

Cathedral of Learning is only occupied up to 36; there’s a banquet room up at 40 or so but otherwise the top six floors are only mechanical equipment.

Fifth and Penn intersect Downtown as well, by the way. Other than Beechwood and Monitor, I don’t know of any roads in the city that intersect multiple times, certainly not miles apart like that.

(ed. One more pair: Frankstown and Bennett in Homewood.)

(ed. 2. How could I forget Perrysville and Federal?)


anniebikes

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Jun 19 2013 at 6:03am #

You guys are too much! (in a good way.) Read my praise of Bike Pittsburgh.

http://anniebikes.blogspot.com/2013/06/kudos-to-pittsburgh-bicycle-community.html

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