On my way in this morning, another cyclist (on a sweet Velo Orange build) and I passed a CSX worker standing by the train tracks that are frequently used by cyclists, joggers, etc. to cross from Panther Hollow over to the Junction Hollow Trail, the run, etc. The CSX worker was counting cyclists. The good news is he had apparently counted 30 or so! The bad news is he was doing it in order to report back to CSX legal for justification for putting up a big fence that would prevent crossing the tracks in the future.
Interestingly, while it's not official or anything, google maps will even route you over this crossing. Still, it seems like CSX is intent on doing something to close this crossing permanently, in the near future.
Anyway, we can always dream of some kind of overpass or tunnel being built here, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
Oh man, that would seriously suck.
Yeah, if they're serious about doing something about it I think the days of that shortcut are limited. They have the right to build a fence, and the obligation to keep people off the tracks. And an overpass would be seriously expensive.
I crossed that this morning, too. Yes, it would seriously suck to loose that connection.
Why can't an at-grade crossing be installed? Possiby with chicanes to slow cyclist traffic.
I've seen this in philly, see example here: http://www.americantrails.org/photoGalleries/cool/42-trail-crossing-railroad-grade.html
Great examples of solutions from the federal railroad administration here as well:
It is on the city's MovePGH map to build a tunnel -- see this
. (That map also has other interesting things, for example an alternative route to the jail-trail circuitous entrance when coming from Junction Hollow.) Since it is already in the city's potential plan, perhaps they can be convinced to raise the priority.
an alternative to this shortcut (see this
) which connects Boundary Street in Four Mile Run (right before where Junction Hollow Trail starts) to the Bridle Trail of Schenley. It is a tiny, narrow, and very steep path, which is extremely difficult to ride a bike up (making it easier to walk bikes through instead), and with all the rain this summer, it is now extremely overgrown, so much so that the entrance off Boundary is all but invisible if you do not know that it's there. Unless you don't mind cutting through brush, this is not a practical path, at least not in its present condition. Perhaps, though, this path (or a similar alignment) could be made into a proper, rideable trail if need be, as a backup option while/if the tunnel is not made.
Whatever the case is, some improvements to the route here would go a long way in making this a more pleasant corridor.
Alternatively, could a trail be developed on Schenly Park property adjacent to the rail corridor that connects to boundry st right before the railroad bridge over boundry st ?
I know there is an overgrown trail that connects from the bridle trail down to that side of the rail bridge but that's not friendly for runners and cyclists.
Could a relatively flat trail (possibly with a couple switchbacks on the boundry st side) be developed to connect to the lake?
By the way, these tracks seem to have been getting a lot busier lately, with long trains coming by; maybe this is a reason why CSX are doing this now?
@abf - I guess you beat me to my comment about the trails.
There is no way I would advocate sending most people up that trail to boundry. It was a bit sketchy coming down on a mountain bike and definitely a bit overgrown. We need something like the big wide flat machine made trails through the park, not a steep windy footpath.
Though, the advantage of the crossing by the lake is that it gives people south/central oakland better access to the lake via joncaire st.
From the CSX site:
"The railroad, in its commitment to employee and public safety, is firmly opposed to the establishment of any grade crossing. Both federal and state government policies discourage the creation of new grade crossings. In seeking to carry out this policy, both the U.S. Department of Transportation and state agencies have adopted programs to eliminate grade crossings by constructing bridges or by diverting traffic to existing overhead, subgrade or at-grade crossings. CSX fully supports these policies and programs. We strongly urge you to find an alternate means of access – examine the prospect of providing a bridge – instead of applying for a grade crossing."
@Benzo Definitely agree that trail path between Bridle and Boundary is 100% not fit for cyclists (besides for those on mountainy bikes, in the spring, when it is not so overgrown).
Also, the path at the tracks is a very nice route, especially connecting as it does to many already-existing, nice trails, which can be used to get over the Junction/Panther Hollow hillsides; therefore it would be wonderful if that route can be saved
And besides, there was no fence there in 1909
, so presumably this route has been available for a while :-)
Thanks for that info, abf. I've often looked at that overgrown trail from Boundary, but never ventured up.
What is the status of the MovePGH map? Is it a kind of wishlist/projects-for-if/when-we-can-get-money? I see that the proposed underpass has a "project ranking" of 2.
Interestingly, a little north there is a project with ranking 3, PB-156, that says "Switchback path connection through undeveloped land from Boundary to Schenley Drive." I guess that would come up behind Phipps?
Friends of the Riverfront is planning at least four grade crossings of railroad tracks between Millvale and Freeport, the last I heard, as part of the Erie to Pittsburgh bike trail. So I don't think we should let CSX intimidate us into not asking for one here, where there is an obvious need.
Southside has numerous grade crossings, and those rails see much more frequent and faster trains than Junction Hollow.
The counting that @lenticular observed near Panther Hollow Lake would probably show that there are more people crossing east-west over that point, as cyclists and pedestrians, than traveling north-south over that point as rail passengers or workers. But I'm not sure that justifies shutting down the rail line :-)
Paul, is FOTR planning new grade crossings, or using existing ones? My understanding from the website is that CSX is not allowing any new grade crossings. Of course, existing ones, like the ones on the Southside, are grandfathered in.
It is a tiny, narrow, and very steep path, which is extremely difficult to ride a bike up (making it easier to walk bikes through instead), and with all the rain this summer, it is now extremely overgrown, so much so that the entrance off Boundary is all but invisible if you do not know that it’s there.
I used to go up and down teh trail walking my bike, but it's become impassab;le for that ever.
Although I've been told it was never a viable trail, my suspeciaon is that the peopel with property near the bottom of the trail made a stink about it. For a while (late 1990's), just about any resident could close city steps just by claiming they were unsafe, with no real examination of the safety issues - or lack thereof.
After my favorite steps, from Beechwood upt to Shaw accross from the "Beechwood Gates" entrance tto the park was closed, the owner confided to me and sig other the name of the council person to call with an "unsafe" claim to efficiently close it down. There was no way those steps were ever unsafe, the guy just wanted to claim it as his property. (I considered keeping some trail open - right through his garden.)
I suspect something similar happened to the Boundary Trail even though there were some problems with the design of that trail for sure.
@Mick: "just about any resident could close city steps just by claiming they were unsafe, with no real examination of the safety issues" - that's awful. We have to put an end to that, if it's still happening.
@jonawebb: I don't know if they were to be new or existing grade crossings.
There is a spur of the Montour trail that takes you past that huge rail tanker yard near Hickory that has a brand new rail line beside it with a few NEW at-grade crossings. I believe the Allegheny trail up by oil city also has a new at-grade crossing as well. So it's not necessarily an impossibility.
I believe @Iguana took pics of these when we were there last fall.
I plan on rolling back up the same way home. I'll be there before almost all of the afternoon rush traffic, but ask whoever's there if I can look at the counts it looked like were being made when I crossed. If anyone is going back there on the late side, your report would be especially interesting.
I mean, if, in spite of the nominal prohibition, the annoyance of a carry across the tracks, and the presence of an official (and presumably forbidding) vehicle on the tracks there are (wild guestimate) nearing 100 in a day, from a bike standpoint that's not a trivial routing, especially with the greenfield bridge demolition coming up, which will very greatly increase its importance (especially since there's no sign I can see at the moment that Panther Hollow Rd. going uphill will be anything other than the cluster^&* it is today when the bridge goes down (Speaking of which, can we pressure this any more? Anyone want to form in bike-pools to claim this road uphill and force the issue front and center?)).
By the way, the Erie to Pittsburgh trail runs alongside the Conemaugh Line owned by Norfolk Southern, not by CSX, so maybe that explains the dichotomy. However, I would imagine that CSX would allow bicycle crossings faster than they would allow road crossings. Before trains get to a grade crossing (at least a road crossing, perhaps not for bike/ped ones though?), they must sound their horn
4 times, long, long, short, long (I'd imagine that perhaps they also must slow down too before some crossings?). So I would imagine that it is seen as extra hassle by the railroads, especially for more local trails like the Schenley one.
In general, the freight trains that roll through here move fairly slowly, or at least slow/loud enough that you know when they're coming. Once I did see an Amtrak train heading south, and it seemed to be moving considerably faster, like maybe 45 mph. I assume this was headed to DC? I don't know the schedule, but for people who use this crossing, it's something to keep in mind.
FWIW Norfolk-Southern has similar language on its website. Not quite as definite as CSX's, though:
"For employee and public safety, NS' goal is to remove highway-rail grade crossings where practical. NS opposes establishing new crossings.
NS, U.S. DOT, and state agencies encourage parties to eliminate crossings by constructing bridges and by diverting traffic to existing overhead, subgrade, and at-grade crossings. Consider alternatives before submitting a private road crossing application."
I have never heard of a train hitting a cyclist porting a bike over the tracks. Collisions with cars and trucks at crossings, though, number in dozens a day nationwide, and it is that which is prompting the call not to allow any new grade crossings.
People in cars don't pay attention to their surroundings as much and stubbornly try to drive out until it's too late. It's much easier not to get into trouble if you're not in a box (physical and metaphorical) and it's much easier to get away if you're not so attached to your vehicle (also in a both physical and metaphorical sense).
I believe the only Amtrak trains on that track are two per day: the morning train from Pittsburgh to DC and the late evening train from DC to Pittsburgh. The other train traffic is mostly Allegheny Valley Railroad (AVR).
Wow, I go over that every week. Was just there today! That would suck big time to the point that... well whatever, I am not posting more. F them!
Look, arguing about whether it's needed is fine, but if a grade-level crossing is going to happen, somebody's going to have to get on the stick. Find out who owns the land adjacent to the crossing, get them on board with a crossing, get them to file the application and negotiate with CSX for it, etc. Otherwise, that fence is going up, whether it inconveniences us or not.
I think the land on both sides of the tracks is Schenley Park. That path across the tracks is used by a ton of people. Even people just walking to get to one place or the other. Not everyone has a car. I don't think there is another easy route if they close that. No more Schenley Park rides from the South Side and joggers aren't going to be able to take that great run down through there. It is a shame. Can they create a barricade and split the park in two that easily? I believe that soccer field is part of Schenley.
Pittsburgh owns the land where the grade crossing would be
(or look for parcel id 0028-S-00250-0000-00 on the Allegheny County real estate portal
So, thinking about it, logical next steps would be to contact Kristin Saunders, Mayor Peduto, Corey O'Connor and Bruce Kraus (the grade-level crossing would connect Districts 3 and 5).
When I went back through yesterday afternoon maybe 3:30-4ish he wasn't there so I don't have any count info? Anyone have more luck?
In terms of who to bug in the city, Kristin Saunders? Peduto? Pittsburgh parks conservancy?
The last is where I'm starting (just general form at https://www.pittsburghparks.org/Contact-Us
) because I have no personal connection with the former two, but if someone has their ear please speak up!
I talked to someone at Schenley Park and he said he has heard about a fence being installed for years, but it has never been installed yet. He also said that when the Greenfield Bridge is gone the amount of traffic through there will quadruple. I know very little about that, but I am just relaying what I was told. I think to get a crossing there would take a person with some power on a political level.
Thanks Paulheckbert for your insight. I am happy to try and help any way I can, if someone has a contact beyond the person I talked to. He seemed to think it was impossible to stop.
I think (and hope) closing down stairways for fictitional afety sisues was a 1990's thing. Towards the end fo teh cntury some people tried to shut down the Edgarton Steps, but toher neighbors rallied to keep keep them.
The urge to shut down is undertandable : Kids drink beer there; the steps often give any passerby the opportunity to case adjacent houses; if there are muggings or other attacks in the neighborhood, the steps can provide a lurking area or a getaway route. Etc.
Main topic: fencing off the PH railroad tracks would harsh my buzz.
Crossing railroad tracks on foot is safer than crossing a street. Train traffic at this spot is generally not moving that fast, is well lit and makes a lot of noise. If people on bikes or foot are not getting killed by trains a quarter mile up the tracks at South Neville, then they won't get killed here, either.
If the only traffic on Butler Street was the #91 bus, you would still have a better chance of getting killed by a bus while crossing Butler (eight buses an hour) than you would get hit by a train here (what, four trains all day?).
Short version: Hey railroad, all your objections are groundless.
If this happens, and once the Greenfield Bridge is imploded, I think for me (coming from the east side of Schenley and trying to get to the jail trail), the alternate route is going to be get over to Schenley Drive, take that down through the golf course, past Phipps, past Schenley plaza, left on Bouquet, then left on Joncaire (on the sidewalk due to the Belgian block), then Boundary to junction hollow.
Dreaming about a tunnel all the while...
Additional thought: All the more reason why we need a switchback structure at the top of the Saline Street dead end, by the Greenfield Bridge, similar to the one at the north end of the Fort Duquesne Bridge, or at the PA65/Island/Beaver/Chateau/California/Marshall corner. Probably wider, since it will start to handle a lot of East End traffic that's not there now.
The overgrown switchback, not-fit-for-a-goat-path from the end of Boundary up to Bridle Trail was created in (IIRC) the 90's when Larry Ridenour was in charge. The idea was to provide a bicycle connection. It seemed like he turned someone loose with a bulldozer and no engineering design. I rode it a few times right after it was built, but the grade was steep, the switchbacks were too tight and banked wrong, and it started eroding right away.
On the other hand, if you go to the end of Panther Hollow Lake, stand between the lake and the RR tracks and look left/south/toward the Mon you can see faint traces of what looks like a cut for an old road. A very old road. I've never followed it, but if there was in fact a road there once, it went somewhere. Which means that it might actually be feasible to build trail from Panther Hollow Lake parallel to the tracks (on the east side, so no crossing required) and come out on Boundary St near the lower end of the soccer fields (close to the bottom of the not-fit-for-a-goat-path.
That would not solve the access problem for the northern stub of Boundary, up by Joncaire, but it would create park access from the Saline St area.
I favor keeping the current route open at Panther Hollow Lake, of course, and improving it to a grade crossing that would allow cyclists and pedestrians to cross more safely (less chance of tripping).
But if we're discussing alternate routes: @StuInMcCandless: If ramps were used to get from the east end of Saline St up to Greenfield Rd, that's a rise of about 140 feet - a heck of a lot. A steel structure that height would be very expensive. I've been recommending a far less expensive (and more scenic) alternative: trails on the hillside in Schenley Park. See map at http://goo.gl/lT0LWO
, specifically, the routes labeled Naylor Trail and Pocusset Trail Extension. I walked those routes and they look plausible. Maybe PTAG would build them? I shared the Naylor Trail idea with Pat Hassett and Bob O'Connor. No reply so far.
The route that Benzo and Mary Shaw suggested, from Panther Hollow Lake, just east of the CSX tracks all the way south to Boundary St, avoiding a RR crossing, also looks interesting. I labeled it Lake Boundary Trail on this map.
I've suggested another alternative for getting from the end of the jail-trail to over near Big Jim's ...
From the access road to the UPMC and Jailtrail parking lots, continue away from 2nd ave near the back of the DPW yard -- head for the Swinburne St Bridge. This is a little uphill, so it makes the ramp to the bridge reasonable.
Hang a bridge over the RR tracks from the bottom of the Swinburne St bridge, hanging as low as possible considering the overhead clearance needed for the RR.
As soon as you clear the RR tracks, start descending, using the overgrown hillside along the west side of Boundary St
This follows the same line as the pink line on Paul's map, but I can't tell how much rise is assumed by that pink line or whether it assumes a free-standing bridge. (Of course, if a free-standing bridge is involved you get a lot more choices about where to cross the RR -- including close to the Irvine/Greenfield/2nd Av intersection, which would allow the bridge to connect to the cycle track.
After reading the alternatives, it seems the best idea would be for nothing to change and the RR leave us, walkers and runners alone for a change instead of being complete a-holes!
I found the trail! Well, goat path. From Bridle Trail down to Boundary St. And ran video
* 0:00 start at Panther Hollow Road & Greenfield-Bartlett corner
* 0:28 enter Bridle Trail
* 5:15 start down the goat path, walking the bike
* 6:39 first collision with a tree (pedal hooked the tree)
* 6:51 rear wheel slides off the trail
* 7:42 second pedal-tree collision
* 7:50 transition from forest to thick undergrowth
* 8:50 undergrowth gets hung up in my derailleur
* 9:34 ducking under branches
* 9:55 bridge visible
* 10:45 jersey barrier
* 10:56 out onto the street
* 11:08 you should recognize where you are now
* 11:30 I reverse direction
I cannot imagine trying to do this:
* while actually riding the bike
* in the dark
* during a storm
* with snow cover
Let's just say, the idea needs work.
Stu, thanks for posting that. I can't tell how steep that is from your video. What would it be like riding up through there? I think I will give it a try next week. Looks like it isn't too hard to find. Thanks again. It isn't really the route I would want to take, because I love riding by the pond and up through the beautiful park, but maybe that is what we will be forced to do. Sure does suck, if they put a fence that whole stretch just to be jerks!
You would need a serious mountain bike to get up that, and that assumes it's dry. The rear wheel went over the side in one spot when it hadn't rained in days.
If you do go, please take a machete and whack at some of that growth.
I don't think this is a feasible alternative.
Also, I looked for a path off of Naylor Street, and found one, but it's even less manageable than what I came down.
What was incredible was to start at the dead end on Saline and roll all the way to Big Jim's. That would be such an awesome way to get into town. How about we drill a tunnel under the Parkway East from that dead end?
@paulheckbert - Any idea what that structure at the north end of the Ft Duq Bridge or the one at Calif/Marshall/Island/Beaver/Chateau cost? Do either of those climb 140 feet? I hate to sound crass, but it's only money.
The question to ask is, what would it take to do the right thing?
@Stu. Depressing. Thanks for the information. I hope they don't block people with that fence. Oh well, that is progress these days.
Thank you Stu for the video of the billy goat trail. I might hike it some time... without a bike.
I think MaryShaw got closest if indeed that old road bed is as described, easily recoverable as trail. The trouble as she noted is there's convenient lake access from the south but not the north.
This is a huge loss given all the time and expense Pittsburgh parks conservancy is making so many spots to try and improve the watershed and make the lake a fit recreation spot again. If you're not making friendly and convenient access from Oakland, much, much less of the crowd that could enjoy it otherwise.
Oh, and of course that trail, in addition to only serving part the the population served by existing infrastructure, is something new that would need to be built. Definitely not a given we'd get it. I'd really get on the horn. Just copy/pasting jonaweb's suggestions there. I've followed them and if you value this connection, you should too.
"So, thinking about it, logical next steps would be to contact Kristin Saunders, Mayor Peduto, Corey O’Connor and Bruce Kraus (the grade-level crossing would connect Districts 3 and 5)."
I went looking for Mary's road and ended up on Stu's trail. There's some construction at the Boundary Street end that might have blocked off Mary's road. If it's there, it's completely overgrown and impassable, I think.
Stu's trail is blocked off by a stand of wild grape (I guess) at the Boundary Street end. Once you get past that it's very steep, eroded, and rocky, but climbable. Too steep to ride, I think. Someone with a machete could do a lot of good here. It's not a practical alternative to the railroad crossing at Panther Hollow Lake -- way too steep.
I think the trail I traversed is approximated by what's labeled as "Bridle Junction Trail", the light blue line on Paul's map.
I twice looked for the "Naylor Trail" split off of the Bridle Trail, and did not find it.
There are two pieces of Naylor Street. One is the tenth of a mile or so that's easily visible on the map, just north of the Parkway. But there is another snippet a bit west of that, at the end of Whitaker Street. The eastern end of that is paved for a bit and starts up the hill some. Still, the Parkway is in the way, and even at that, there is a serious elevation differential between Saline and Bridle.
That blue line running north off of the longer piece of Naylor looks like a drainage ditch. If someone ran a bulldozer into the woods 30 years ago, this may be the result of that. But I couldn't even carry my bike through this, from the bottom, let alone try to ride anything -- and this was less than 10 minutes after descending the goat trail.
Let me up the ante even further. How about, in addition to a big honking switchback system, we also install an elevator alongside? So anyone in a motorized wheelchair could easily roll down Pocusset from Squirrel Hill, cross Greenfield, push a button, and get lowered 140 feet to the top of Saline Street.
Can't cost more than $5 million for the whole shebang.
So we build that, and also build the elevated intersection above the fustercluck at the bottom of the hill that I described a year ago
. There's another easy $5 million. Yeah, I suppose ten mil is getting into more than you could raise at a neighborhood bake sale. And sure, why not, let's toss in an easy crossing from Duck Hollow to Almonoville.
With that, though, you have a complete infrastructure system that gets everyone from East Liberty to Rankin to Duquesne (assuming you have a simple way across the river) an almost car-free, straight shot into downtown. Ten maybe $15 million. That's in the neighborhood of what just one
pair of projects at US19/PA228 is costing the taxpayers of Pennsylvania and other contributors.
Think big, people. We can do this.
@StuInMcCandless asked about cost of zigzag ramps. I put a partial reply in the out-of-town news thread
Interesting project reference numbers from MovePgh Plan. How about suggesting these for the next capitol budget?
PB-239 Junction Hollow-Schenley Park Connector “Underpass below train tracks connection trail to park”
PB-238 Junction Hollow-3 Rivers Connection “New trail construction along west side of railroad traciks; would depend on reconstruction of Frazier Street Bridge to create space against western abuttment”
And While we're at it:
PB-081 Glenwood Bridge Trail Link (To duck Hollow trail)
Source - MovePGH:
Stu: right, Naylor Trail is a proposal, not a reality. On my map http://goo.gl/lT0LWO
, click on the routes and read the text.
I think first thing's first here. Let's just get/keep a campaign moving to bug the right people about keeping the tracks from being fenced off, hopefully get an at grade crossing and save the money for other things, but at the very least, buy time. It will become quite apparent how important the route is next spring with the greenfield bridge is out and with that it would be much easier to justify the capital expenditure on a bridge/tunnel if that's the only way forward.
It would be a lot cheaper to open up a trail along the path of Mary's road than either building a tunnel or bridge. And it would be easier than getting CSX to agree to an at-grade crossing, I suspect.
A rideable path along that route would be just as good, or better, as the rail crossing.
I think the piece of flat trail that Mary S. comments on above may actually be a remnant of the old original roadway. The road used to be located where the current track is and the RR tracks were to its left (as looking uphill towards Oakland) This can be seen in the 1882 map http://peoplemaps.esri.com/pittsburgh/
The road and tracks swapped positions around the turn of the century when they installed sewage pipes etc. I remember reading a good article on this land swap a few years ago, but I cant seen to find it just now.
I disagree with the notion that the probable location of an old road is good enough. First of all, because it's very questionable in my mind that we'd get something built there at all... I'm not prepared to give up on anything we've got now transportation-wise until there's a decent alternate actually built.
But even if it were is it as good? Not at all. A major part of the grand plan for Schenley park is controlling the run-off to improve the water quality and make the lake fit for recreation, which would be pretty incredible. But loosing this crossing you loose easy/convenient lake access from the north which could cut off many/most? of the target users who could easily enjoy this (eventual) park centerpiece.
It's worth fighting for.
Well, people wouldn't really be cut off from the north, they'd just have to ride half a mile south to Boundary Street, then back up the other side of the tracks. Along a trail that would be shady, running along the side of a hill. As opposed to carrying their bikes across a sketchy rail crossing. And a lot of users of the rail crossing are heading for the EFT, which would be easier to access this way.
I call a mile detour pretty significant for something that should be a neighborhood asset.
Remember, most aren't chugging along at 20 or even 15 and have no interest in doing so. Also, relying on trail is an impediment not just to cyclists with trail inappropriate bikes but also skateboarders/roller bladers.
And the comparison should be made not with current state, but with normal at grade crossings that you can ride over, as ultimately this would either be, or better, if the funding actually comes through when the traffic volume quadruples (per earlier prediction).
It's quite possible we won't get any of that by pressing officials to make a stink, but at least we get a little time and momentum which we badly need to press for the trail MaryShaw suggested. It won't happen by itself. As is, it would be very easy, and I think the most likely course, would be that this whole routing shuts down, and that's absolutely unacceptable.
No question, an official grade-level crossing would be awesome. But if that does not happen, I think a new trail along the route Mary found would be an acceptable alternative to the current crossing. It has advantages and disadvantages, but I think on the whole it's better than the existing crossing.
I crossed the RR tracks at Panther Hollow Lake today and saw nobody counting or observing me.
I crossed the RR tracks at Panther Hollow Lake today and saw nobody counting or observing me.
This is why the RR's have legitimate concerns.
Train strikes, kills 15-year-old bicyclist
Stop. Look. Listen. (be patient!)
Darwin award. At a legal, marked crossing with lowered, properly functioning gates. This has nothing really to do with what we're after.
No stu, someone getting killed on the tracks has everything to do with getting a legitimate Schenley Park at-grade crossing. The fact that people cannot be trusted to obey VERY OBVIOUS safety devices is why the feds and the RR's dont want to install any new at-grade crossings.
While I feel bad for the kid that was killed, this lack of respect for RR safety measures is why they want to keep people away from RR tracks entirely. And from their perspective, I dont blame them.
I illegally cross the tracks at the bottom of Becks Run all the time, but if I can see a train (even a half mile or more away) I will wait far back from the track and raise my hand so the engineer knows that I see them and I am NOT going to try to "beat the train" and cross in front of them. Occasionally the engineer will soft toot a thank you to me as they pass because people near the tracks are a literal nightmare for them.
It's sad, but was also very clearly preventable, and in a nation of 300 million plus, this anecdote doesn't say anything useful about whether or not at grade railroad crossings are a good or bad idea. Especially for non-motorized traffic, which, I think for reasons alluded to earlier (degree of obviousness / emotional and physical attachment ), is much less likely to have a safety issue than motorized traffic would.
I agree with Stu. You can't idiot proof everyone. That teenager went around the gates, which are there to prevent people from crossing. What more can a RR do to protect us than gates? I was taught as a young kid to NEVER cross when one train passes until you can clearly see the other set of tracks because another train may be coming in the other direction. You can't prevent every single death. There are countless crossings that have no gates in our region. The trains sound those insanely loud horns and people STILL get hit. There are always going to be deaths on roadways, train crossings, showers, golf courses and more.
I would love to explore that area a little more this week. Having a health issue that makes riding longer distance a problem, but it is healing. Suks getting old. Anyway, if there is a route that starts around Big Jims somewhere and would end up by that beautiful lake without crossing the tracks, that would be wonderful. I don't know how to access it, but will have a look this week with the ideas posted on this board. Thanks for those ideas by the way.
What more can the RR company do than gates? They can fence the crossing off. Which they may do, to the PH crossing.
It’s sad, but was also very clearly preventable, and in a nation of 300 million plus, this anecdote doesn’t say anything useful about whether or not at grade railroad crossings are a good or bad idea.
No, it's not preventable in terms of grade rr x-ngs. In the nation of 300+ million there is always enough idiots -- it's not just all of them got killed. And in nation of 300+ millions there are enough lowers who will try to get money from rr company and government. And it even not counting business disruption and rr loses because of it.
And I did not counted drunk people as idiots...
Preventable by the individual who got hit. Not preventable in a nation of 300+ million. We're saying the same thing. As for the business case, clearly a fence is cheaper and more (though by no means completely) idiot proof. Just talking about broader public interest and saying our local officials should make an effort to keep it open for that reason.
I went by there this weekend, looking at it from the Panther Hollow lake end, and there's something like a hint of an old road there. At least there's a kind of flat area starting near the base of the hill, and you can see how there could have been a road there once. But it may be that the the Charles Anderson bridge cuts off that route. Looking at it from the Junction Hollow trail, I didn't think there's enough clearance between the bridge supports and the tracks.
Might be about five years ago, a woman got killed by a train in Derry, Westmoreland County. Not at a crossing, the closest of which was a quarter mile away, but at a spot on a direct path between her residence and a store. That's probably the better comparison to this.
Is this a how-do-you-make-things-safe discussion? Or rather is it a how-do-you-reduce-illegality-never-mind-whether-it's-safe-because-it's-never-safe-even-where-it's-legal sort of discussion?
If I recall the P-G article correctly (it was hard to forget), that woman managed to kill not only herself, but also her toddler, which she was trying to drag across the tracks in a stroller. I also recall that before she and her child were hit, a police officer who happened to see them screamed at them not to try to cross the tracks in front of the train, but she proceeded despite the officer's warning (assuredly among other sounds that should have counseled her to stay put). The railroad still got sued for negligence. I'm not sure what the incident says about the Panther Hollow crossing, or any other, for that matter.
Damn. Sad about the toddler.
You guys are being pretty harsh on a 15 year old. There's a safety video about railroad crossings from the 50's that mentions the possibility of one train clearing and then getting hit by a train going in the opposite direction, so it's not as if this is some new phenomenon that never happens.
I mean damn, kids really should know the ins and outs of crossing railroad tracks, how dare they not
As far as PH goes, I've been startled by the train by the parking lot area where that switchback area is by the trail. I was looking and listening and it still came up on me pretty fast. I think there's less visibility at the actual PH crossing
That's a sad story. And if the crossing stays unofficial then yes, the infrastructure will be wildly unsuitable for kids in strollers.
It shouldn't stay that way and I don't think will. But the routing matters a lot already and will matter vastly more with the impending shutdown of the greenfield bridge and then in the longer term with the cleanup efforts on the lake.
These two things make a strong case, from a public policy standpoint, that the requisite authorities at least need to apply for an at-grade crossing and/or do whatever else might prevent the railroad from blocking this off totally. Then, when traffic quadruples with the greenfield bridge out, we can see, if the railroad really, really digs in their heels against an at-grade crossing, if there's enough push to prioritize something better.
My point is to mention that the RRs do dot want people anywhere near their tracks - whether legally with an at-grade crossing or illegally at some other point. And while I may not like them putting up fences, I totally understand their reason for doing so.
Also, any attempt to get them to put in a NEW crossing at PH is going to meet with extreme resistance from the RR, who can legitimately point to cases like the teenager above as an example of why it is not safe to put in even the most obvious gate-protected, lights blinking, bells dinging, train horn-blowing crossing.
In Wilkinsburg, over a century ago there were a high number of people getting killed crossing the tracks each year. The solution was to raise the tracks and lower all of the surrounding buildings. Through streets and pedestrian tunnels were routed underneath. Just imagine how much effort that was!
Unfortunately, critical bicycle commuting routes are disappearing just when we were on the verge of tying together a viable, city-wide system. The jail trail used to offer connections to squirrel hill and regent square without having to travel busy city roads. With duck hollow fenced off and panther hollow probably fenced in the future, cyclists are needing to travel longer distances and on much busier roadways.
Is there a way to raise this with the city? That the railroad is blocking pedestrian travel in a historically unprecedented way? Granted the pedestrians are trespassing. But it is severing travel connections in a way that's never been done before. We need another solution.
I'll have to explore the southwest hillsides of Schenely park in the fall when there is greater visibility. With park authorization, a viable route could connect jail trail traffic up through Schenely Park. It would just have to pass under the tracks at the bottom of junction hollow. Ironically this would bypass all of the beautiful bike/ped infrastructure in junction hollow.
I would argue that the RR should _want_ a cyclist-safe crossing. Certainly the existing legal Neville/Boundary crossing is one of the least safe crossings of a live track in the city. I can't count how many cyclists wipe out there.
Coming down that hill on a wet day with a car on your butt is f'n scary.
@StuInMcCandless "I would argue that the RR should _want_ a cyclist-safe crossing. Certainly the existing legal Neville/Boundary crossing is one of the least safe crossings of a live track in the city. I can’t count how many cyclists wipe out there. Coming down that hill on a wet day with a car on your butt is f’n scary."
Agreed. That's why we should all be paying attention to the Planning Commission hearings on the CMU and Central Catholic building plans in areas bordering Neville St. So far this year we've gotten CMU to commit space for trail in their new parking lot downhill of the RR crossing, Central Catholic to agree to space for trail in the new construction near Fifth, and CMU to agree that the trail has priority when they're dealing with that side of the Tepper project. This has happened because of consistent input from cyclists, especially cyclists at the Planning Commission hearings.
The solution to Neville is getting more space to share; it seems to be shaping up as a separated cycle track/path, possibly as far down at the parking lot at Joncaire. Once you get past Joncaire St the dead-end streets don't seem to present any problems.
When talking to the RR, it might make sense to present an at-grade crossing as merely a temporary one, until a proper grade-separated solution can be built (whatever that might be). That would also get the RR invested in finding a grade-separated solution.
There are six level crossings of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad by the Great Allegheny Passage between Cumberland, Maryland and Foxburg. I was just there on Sunday. Below is crossing #3 near trail milepost 2 outside of Cumberland, Maryland. As you can see, there's no gate at the crossing, but STOP is painted boldly on the asphalt on each side of the crossing. There is also no fence between the train tracks and the trail. The crossings work nicely.
This all could be a good thing or a bad thing I guess. If there was a crossing, you wouldn't have to pick up your bike and walk across the tracks. If they put a fence up, you would have to figure out another route. I looked at Stu's trail yesterday and it was so overgrown, I just didn't deal with it. I was on my way to work, so I didn't have unlimited time. It would be a shame if the RR split the park up in two and there was no access. I was trying to find more about PA law and RR crossings, but it seems RR's really have the upper hand on this stuff. Even with river access, the RR seems to have a lot of power. That sort of makes me sick. They can prevent people from fishing the river? We want a crossing that connects the park, instead of a fence that splits the park in two. Will the RR even give a crap?
The RR gives a crap about their liability first and foremost.
Find a way to release them of all liability (to the extent of, "we don't even have to pay our lawyers to go to court to have the civil suit dismissed"), and I'll betcha that you can have all the at-grade crossings you want.
At least for purposes that will be unlikely to result in a deraillment...I can see a legitimate argument against creating more potential for idiots to park their cars on active tracks.
Putting up bollards positioned to allow only bicycle traffic would be a good way to ensure there isn't a problem from cars at a new crossing.
Really, all we're after here is the legitimization of a crossing that's been in use every day for decades without any significant incident AFAIK. It's only a problem because they're making it a problem.
Really, all we’re after here is the legitimization of a crossing that’s been in use every day for decades without any significant incident AFAIK. It’s only a problem because they’re making it a problem.
I wonder *why* it's being made into a problem? It strikes me as highly unlikely that someone at CSX saw a cyclist roll through a stop sign one morning, and decided "I'm gonna screw those scofflaws over! How can I best do that? I know, I'll close one obscure unofficial crossing point!"
I ask not to defend their reasons (because I can't defend or condemn things I don't know), but because it's a lot easier to craft a compelling counterargument if you know what their argument is in the first place.
I'd guess their reasoning is simple.
1. Sometimes pedestrians get killed or injured while illegally on our tracks.
1a. This is bad for many reasons, and some of those cost us money.
2. Accidents like this are more likely to happen at spots where people illegally cross our tracks.
3. Fencing prevents people from getting to our tracks.
4. Sadly, we don't have enough money budgeted to fence every last inch of track.
5. The most efficient use of our limited fencing budget is to fence those places with the most illegal crossings.
I suspect their safety people don't think it's their job to worry at all about the convenience of people crossing their tracks, much less balance that against safety. Somebody else (like government) is responsible for sticking up for convenience, and arguing with the railroad.
Sounds right to me. The railroad is surely looking to reduce potential exposure to a multi-million dollar wrongful death lawsuit when some dipshit manages to get hit by the train and their money-grubbing next-of-kin sues the railroad. Can anyone articulate how is that a bad business decision by a property owner? And would the board take up a collection for the railroad when that happens?
I have zilch data, but there are quite a few oil tankers going through there the last year or two, it could be a Homeland Security sponsored requests. Since they had that derailment earlier this year they might be 'going over their books' and looking for any safety infractions.
I mean, those kids illegally crossing the tracks could be working for isis/al-qaeda/hezbollah/Demorats....
The Junction Hollow is used for gas shipments.
I see those trains all the time so assume things are pretty busy. It would make a lot of sense for the RR co. to want to increase safety. Especially given that cargo.
If the state ever manages to get royalty revenue from the frackers maybe there'll be enough money available to pay for a proper overpass at that spot. Or maybe we could just call it an "impact fee".
Speaking of overpasses, it's only been a couple of years since there was an overpass along there. A rail overpass, ironically enough. It used to be a siding into the Carnegie complex's heating plant.
A tunnel here if a legal at-grade crossing is not doable would be absolutely wonderful. It would provide a completely off-roads connection to the jail trail and from there to the Point, with only two street crossings (boundary st and grant ave) once the Mon Wharf Switchback is complete; this yields a family-friendly cycling route all the way from the Squirrel Hill side of Schenley Park to the Point, which is currently nowhere near complete (the alternatives involve steep trails, climbing/descending (many) stairs, or biking on streets/sidewalks for quite a while).
The closest equivalent to such a tunnel in the area that I can think of, is by Station Square under the railroad tracks, connecting to the Gateway Clipper Fleet area. Here are some articles which mention that underpass: this
one from 1981 says that the tunnel would have run at about $700,000 (in 1981 dollars, of course :-) ); this
says that the tunnel and dock would be funded by an Urban Action Development Grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development; more mentions here
And similarly, the Rock Alley idea
would do the same for South Oakland, connecting it to the jail trail in a family-friendly way; now, that Duquesne Light is doing work on the Jail Trail in the area, it may be a good time to put the preparations in place for this project.
See P-G article here
and discussion of that article here
Yes, I like the part in the PG article about the panther hollow transit corridor proposal that says:
"It also calls for bike-pedestrian improvements, including a bridge over the railroad tracks."
I am somewhat concerned about effects on the bike trail here, but so long as a separated path exists, I'm really not going to split hairs about it.
Saw rider reports on Facebook saying that there are now cops at the railroad crossing preventing users from going over the tracks. BikePGH has the scoop on this, too:
We need solutions for track crossings at Panther Hollow Lake, Duck Hollow Trail, and Becks Run Road. We've lost a lot of good trail connections due to these restrictions at track crossings.
I was stopped at the Panther Hollow crossign on Friday. I thought there was some kind of crime scene there, but I guess 8it was jsut the police protecting me from myself.
Note that CSX has it's own police department. It surprised me as well but many railroads have their own police. They are authorized to enforce the laws of the jurisdiction they're in. There is also a couple hundred years of laws that were created specifically for the railroads. Many were written when the railroads were the some of the biggest companies in the country. They had quite powerful lobbyists.
Point being, they have the authority to enforce whatever they're saying they want to enforce.
Here's a link to a history of the CSX police:
According to P-G, CSX says it's not their police:
"CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said the railroad’s police were not involved in the action referenced on the Bike Pittsburgh website. Another railroad that uses the line, Allegheny Valley Railroad, did not respond to inquiries."
Will the P-G send a reporter down to the crossing to interview whoever is issuing/threatening citations? And ask what agency he/she represents? The city is working with the RR to find a resolution -- will they send a city police officer down to find out what the deal is?
Goodness they are giving out citations. Don't they have anything better to do? The line to sight at that crossing is great and it is so easy to cross. Why is it some big deal? People have been crossing there for decades to join the park. It isn't just cyclists, it is walkers and runners as well and it is pretty heavily traveled. Either give "the people" a crossing or look the other way. They shouldn't be able to shut off both sides of a park like that. Just bullying the community is what it is. I am tired of the "liability" crap being used all the time. There is liability ALL over the place on every sidewalk, every part of every place we walk, run or ride. Do people shut their sidewalks down because of it? I guess someone might out there. The RR folks are a bunch of a-holes if you ask me. Just being power hungry jerks! GIVE US THE CROSSING WE DESERVE AND DON'T SPLIT A PARK IN TWO!
my comment on that PG article: It would be foolish for CSX or Allegheny Valley Railroad to enforce trespassing laws where the railroad tracks cross the Panther Hollow Trail, there. I would guess that more people travel the Panther Hollow Trail, by foot or bicycle, across that spot, than travel along that rail line. That rail line carries one slow Amtrak train per day in each direction, to and from Washington DC, plus a few slow freight trains. We need to improve the bicycle and pedestrian network, not weaken it! This should be made into a proper level crossing, so that cyclists can bike across, as they can at Boundary St. Having to carry their bikes and step over the rails makes the crossing more dangerous than it needs to be.
As I said earlier, I cannot think of a less safe nor more heavily traveled LEGAL crossing in the city than at Neville/Boundary.
Every legitimate concern the RR has about the illegal one applies equally to the legal one, except that sight lines are better at the illegal one, and there is more chance of a cyclist falling flat (in front of a moving train) at the legal one. And by legitimate concerns, I am specifically excluding the trespassing issue.
Is there any history of someone getting hurt/killed at the PHLake crossing, other than on purpose? I suspect that a cyclist gets hurt at the Boundary/Neville crossing on a weekly basis.
And the panther hollow crossing has likely been in use for over a hundred years!
I wish I could find the black and white photo I've seen from around the turn of the century...
A better local example of how the at-grade crossings work just fine with cyclists and pedestrians are the three on/near the South Side trail: at 4th, 9th, and 18th Sts, respectively. Granted, only the one on 4th requires you to cross the tracks to stay on the trail, but I can't recall any incidents that would suggest that these are a major hazard,
As Paul said, a simple at-grade crossing at Panther Hollow, with warning signals and gates, is sufficient.
Last time I went thru, the gates/lights at the 4th St. South Side crossing were broken and non-functional, and the RR I assume had taped up an 8 1/2 x 11 photocopied sign that said "Signal not working". So, yeah, liability.
Stu, I rode up that trail that would bypass the tracks that you took a video of today. Yes, I went up it and had to walk a fair amount of it due to overgrowth and it was too steep/loose to ride in parts. I don't feel that is doable. The best option is an at grade crossing where everyone is doing it already. The second best option is enter where I did today and then create a trail alongside the RR tracks up to the pond. Clearly, we need an at grade crossing. The line to sight is super long and I have rarely ever seen a train on that track and the ones I do are slow as heck. This is ridiculous!
I'm probably missing something, but given that we have an at-grade crossing at Neville/Boundary (and ones elsewhere) that works, why can't we have one at the Panther Hollow Lake? It of course would be for non-car traffic, but that should be ok.
As long as people obey the signals, and there's not reason to believe they'd be less likely to do so there than elsewhere.
Why does prohibiting something that people reasonably want to do seem more important than arranging things so that everyone's concerns are addressed?
Csx probably doesn't want any at-grade crossings. But they can't get rid of existing ones without spending a lot of money.
Jon, we can blame the ambulance chasing attorneys for this crap. A few people make big bucks and the masses suffer. It is what it is. I see no other good way to get to that pond from Panther Hollow other than that spot. If they fence it, that pond will only be accessible from the other side and shuts off all the folks coming from Oakland and more. How sad!
I think the "problem" is that we value human life a lot more than we used to. On the Labor Day ride we learned that there used to be one death a week at the Pressed Steel Car Company. Railroads used to run through the middle of cities, where children would play. Can't do that anymore. Grade-level crossings are a remnant of that time.
I stopped and talked to two folks in uniform on Friday. They are PA State Constables that have been hired by Allegheny Valley RR to keep people off the tracks. They said they have been watching three or four spots along the line (duck hollow too).
And yep, you too can become a constable
Wow, so there were Constables there handing out tickets. I was there the other day and no one around. I hope I don't have to deal with them. Might get ugly because I am in no mood and mean it. Maybe some jail time will be okay for the publicity of it. Who cares? That is one pos RR!
Constables are state-authorized enforcers that do evictions and law enforcement when corporations want to hire police. They're bouncers with government halo's. FWIW, you don't want to screw with them.
With a large war chest, a strong law firm, an even stronger P.R. firm, nothing else to do, and the right approach, it might be possible to beat this back, through the courts of law, public opinion, or both. Most people I know do not have that set of resources.
Guess Allegheny Valley RR has a head of the RR that hates cyclists. What can you do? They are out there. I doubt I will see anyone there. I ride off hours and they are too cheap to pay for that on off hours I suspect. Guess they can split the park in two just like that. Nice bunch!
Isn't there like one slow moving train a day on that silly track? So that justifies closing that crossing down that has been used for decades maybe more for that slow train? Really? What a wonderful rail road they are including all involved. Talk about sick POS people. It isn't like it is just cyclists either folks. TONS of walkers and runners through there. All for their little train. How cute. So glad the city spent the money on fixing that pond area up. Now they can have it cut off to the all the people on the other side of the tracks. How wonderful. They sure are are great group.
I have contacted the PA Utilities Commission (as they have jurisdiction over at-grade crossings), asking about the process to request a new crossing. There are blank forms on their website to request such things, although the forms are lacking in much detail and require lawyers/serving copies to the affected parties.
Hopefully, we can get back some actionable information...existing regulations, next steps, who to talk to, etc.
Sothwest Pennsylvania RR, which is owned by the same company, Carload Express, has a rail-with-trail (the Five Star Trail
). Another rail-with-trail for the SWPA RR is planned
-- the Sheepskin Trail
AVRR itself has a rail-with-trail, the Arboretum Trail walking trail
in Oakmont, PA, and the trail has several pedestrian railroad crossings.
AVRR itself has a rail-with-trail, the Arboretum Trail walking trail in Oakmont, PA, and the trail has several pedestrian railroad crossings.
FYI, this trail is ped only, no bikes , skates, or dogs allowed. It is owned by the boro, not AVRR.
On the topic of AVRR, I ride their tracks north out of Oakmont quite a bit, and have seen stupid fisherman get their cars stuck twice this summer by driving along the tracks to their fishing spot. I haven't been up that way in about a month, but maybe this has something to do with the crackdown.
Lately the POanther hollow crossing has been guarded by two police cars sserving and protecting us.
When i went through on early Monday afternoon, there were no police there.
Someone went over the tracks ! [I hope you undertand that this somone was someone who isn't me SWIM- you all know I would NEVER break any laws, don't you?]
SWIM had no plans to go through the park. Indeed, it was out of his way.
Crossing was a crime of opportunity. (Shaking my head. Negligent policing.)
As SWIM went past the lake a large bird of prey - perhaps a peregrin? - landed on the edge of the lake. At first SWIM was afraid it was The Eagle of Law Enforcement coming for retribuition, but the bird had it's own agenda.
It was a beautiful day.
what I don't understand is: if they want to stop people from crossing, why don't they put up a major-league fence rather than leave it generally open and available and intermittently guarded?
I mean, I hear a lot of politicians want to build a fence along our southern border. One even wants a fence along the northern border. So fences must work, right?
I was attempting to cross the RR tracks from Becks Run over to the GAP trail earlier this summer but could hear and see a train approaching slowly from my left. I NEVER cross RR tracks if I detect a train no matter how far away it is, so I stood there waiting. I watched as the train kept getting slower and slower and then it finally came to a complete stop immediately in front of me. A guy climbs out of the cab and walks toward me so I ask kinda sheepishly if it's safe & ok to cross. He says sure, because he would be there for a few minutes while he ran over to Pages to get some ice cream. I then crossed and went through the hole in the fence and continued on my way.
Moral of the story:
sometimes it benefits everyone to 'look the other way' every now and then.
that is an excellent story and your conclusion is spot on.
@V the tracks are on city land. The RR company that's causing the problem doesn't even own the tracks, they're leasing from CSX. So they probably can't put up a fence.
TRAINS ARE ALLOWED TO STOP FOR ICE CREAM, WHAT?!?
EVERYTHING STOPS FOR ICE CREAM!
(I think it's part of the 4th law of thermodynamics.)
Went past the area today, checked out if there was actually any quasi-cops there. No signs, the path is wide and maintained, as well as a lack of a fence.
I actually went past there and saw a CitiParks Ranger going past there, she probably saw me cross over and didn't even say a word to me.
There are some sign posts there that I had never seen before.
On one side of the tracks the sign is completely ripped off and it is just a post. On the other side there is still half a sign there, bent and mutilated.
I honestly don't kow who would do vandalismsm like that!
(And I'd like to know because I want to buy him or her a beer.)
I think we scared those railroad guys away.
When it was policed, there were two cop cars there.
To sustain that for a few years might be more expensive than building a bridge.
The greenfield bridge is closing, what, mid October? The way I look at it, there are then two reasonably direct ways home for me.
1: Through here, or up Panther Hollow Rd.
2: I imagine the same is true for a pretty decent number of people.
Yet the city is telling us not to use one, and the practical riding environment is telling us not to use the other.
Something's gotta give.
I'd actually be more inclined to pursue the second option since it's legal, usable in whatever weather on whatever bicycle, and more clearly presenting a pain point and a need to fix to the city... and right by the end of the cycletrack no-less. I'd be delighted to synch up return commutes if a few folks would like to make this a regular group ride.
Crossed it today with no issues. Looked both ways and of course you can see for a very long way in each direction. The trails in Schenley are amazing right now. Smooth as glass. The pond looks great as well. I think the RR needs to just relax about that area. The line to sight is great. Someone just wants to be a jagoff and that.
Tonight's Critical Mass ride is to do just that. Fifth to Halket to BlvdAllies to Panther Hollow Road to Greenfield Road-Bridge-'hood-Ave.
Right lane. Left tire track. Ceding to nothing but a fire truck or equivalent. And giving zero fucks. That's how we ride, that's how you should ride when you have to be in the thick of aggressive traffic.
The spot I don't like is going through the interchange as the road bends around toward the right and is somewhat blind. I haven't followed a bicycle through here to specifically see how long the sight lines are for that, but when I do drive here I'm always going much slower than ambient traffic, because, I don't know, I like to see where I'm going.
The fact that most don't care mean that I'm a little wary by bike. What I've done a couple times, which is a little silly, but works kinda ok (drivers are unhappy to see you there, but they do see you), is act like I'm exiting to overlook, but then cut back to the left just after the end of the divider to get to the onramp back to Panther Hollow Rd. I guess if I had the chutzpah to ride in the left lane that would probably cure the line of sight issue as well ;)
Maybe it's because I'm used to it, dealing with an even sharper turn with even shorter sightlines at similar speeds, on Perrymont, is to get flat up against the yellow line as I'm in the curve (on an uphill, going about 7 mph), though on that one, I duck to the right shoulder as soon as I'm far enough past. But here, I would not do it precisely the same way. I think I would need to try it a few more times to figure out the best trajectory.
Apparently the RR construction down in SouthSide that has the trail temporarily detoured - is so they can install a brand new at-grade crossing
for use within the cement plant.
Saw this after the new crossing was installed, but before the shortcut was closed.
I've heard it was so damn difficult to get a new grade crossing, Then I saw this and wondered, why can't we have this at panther hollow?
I've also seen an implementation of a rail crossing in Philadelphia similar to what they did at keystone metals on the GAP. Put in two chicanes to force people to slow down and look before crossing.
Materials needed: Asphalt for the crossing, Gates for the Chicanes and a little chainlink fence on either side.
@Benzo -- The Keystone crossing on the GAP gives the argument against this solution. Keystone's requirement was that the gates should force cyclists to dismount, or at least stop, and look before crossing. In practice, at least half of the people I see there slow down a little, but they seem to be navigating the chicane rather than looking for trucks.
And we had already complaints about Keystone chicane at this board. :)
Yeah, I kind of hate the chicane too, probably sucks for tandem riders and trailer pullers.
Just giving an example of what was done somewhere else that I've used. That chicane was much more narrow there, maybe even required a dismount.
I'd rather have a crossing here with a chicane than no crossing, but I'd rather have a crossing with no chicane than one with a chicane.
I wonder if Schenely Park would authorize construction of a trail paralleling the east side of the tracks. This would fairly easily connect Panther Hollow lake with Boundary street at the southern end of Junction Hollow. It would eliminate the need to cross the tracks entirely because the tracks are elevated at the southern end of the hollow. Or at least it would do so for people coming to or from the jail trail.
Trail Pittsburgh, if given the go ahead, could get this done at no cost to the city.
I was passing through this afternoon and decided to take a look at the crossing. The Constabulary was out in force:
Only later did it occur to me to ask them who exactly they were working for (ARR? CSX?). I think that would have been useful to know. Anyway, if you happen to wander by...
But they were nice enough to allow me to take some pics (provided I didn't attempt a crossing!) Here's one view:
It's steeper than I remember it (from years ago) and maybe not the easiest to clamber over with a bike. Also, you'd think that the post would have some sort of No Trespassing sign. But they don't.
Why? If you're paying for two people to stand around, why not also buy a couple of signs? If only for when the constables aren't around. It feels wrong, unless for some reason you can't?
We chatted a bit about the whole thing. They were of the opinion that a bridge might be a good idea. The cost came up; we eventually sort of agreed that a crossing (with the barriers and the ringers) might be a viable solution. A crossing would be nice but I can see it would need to have the approaches properly graded (maybe not that big a deal). I also started to wonder just how much (ped/bike) traffic would happen. It's an easy way to get to the lake, but coming down from the Nature Center is equally reasonable. Could this be part of a viable alternative for cyclists travelling between Sq Hill and points south? It would mean some additional work further up the hill.
I believe the signposts visible in the picture used to have signs for a short period of time.
How exact would this grading have to be for pedestrians and cyclists walking or carrying their bikes?
Has anyone tried crossing the tracks on the northern side of the lake- possibly approaching from the end of the parking lot or even coming down from the recently developed CMU property under the bridge?
The signs used to be there. People probably got pissed and ripped them down. Rightfully so in a way, for some a-hole RR to split a public park in half for no real reason. The line to sight is ridiculously long, not to mention the tracks are hardly EVER in use.
Grading? That is super easy. I know that business and it is a few dump trucks to get that squared away. This is a super easy job, but of course it will be made into a huge project for no reason. I may have crossed it a 100 times and it is no big deal. There is someone at the RR who is being an a-hole. This isn't some high speed RR area or some area that is hard to see or hear a train. It is perfect for a crossing, but lets face it, whoever is doing this hates cyclists and is doing this for ego, not logic. Will the RR win? Maybe. I haven't seen their hired guns down there yet. I have no beef with them. They are just hired to do a job of an a-hole.
for some a-hole RR to split a public park in half for no real reason.
This is not true. RR and tunnel have been opened in 1883
Land acquired for park (from Mary Schenley by city and by Edward Bigelow, Pittsburgh’s Director of Public Works) in 1889 and 1891
The line to sight is ridiculously long, not to mention the tracks are hardly EVER in use.
At least 8 trains per day (including Amtrak's Capitol Limited).
PS CSX owns them but it's a lost money for them. They do not use them but have to maintain tracks, tunnel, etc since they cannot abandon them (track should be 5(?) years to be not in use to abandon them) and cannot sell them due to Amtrak usage (level of safety should be at certain level). So CSX is not interested in any crossing at all.
PPS My understanding is that CSX did not hire constables.
8 f'n trains a day? WOW! This is stupid crap! The trains also travel so slow it is ridiculous. Not to mention you are talking about 1800's. It is meaningless. There NEEDS to be a crossing. We subsidize RR's as it is. They OWE US!
Meaningless is to provide a piece of info that is false.
Trains are slow because of crossing before the tunnel.
And "we subsidize" -- could you provide more details?
Meaningless is to provide a piece of info that is false.
Trains are slow because of crossing before the tunnel.
And “we subsidize” — could you provide more details?
1. Amtrak is running two of the eight trains a day on that track as mentioned earlier in this thread.
Since 1972 Amtrak has received more than $13 billion of federal subsidies. Is that good enough for you?
Trains are slow. You agree with me then.
You are mixing multiple subjects:
1. CSX owns tracks. And CSX is not subsidized. So I am not agree with you on this one.
2. AVR hired constables and is not subsidized. So I am not agree with you here either.
3. So only Amtrak is subsidized and it has two trains a day while AVR has at least six (notice words "at least" since there are days when it carries 10-15; AVR is so called "slow movers" -- it operates not according to schedule but when cars are filled up and there are enough cars to form a train). So here I agree with you up to 25% or less.
4. Train are slow only because there is so called permanent "civil" speed restriction. This speed restriction is set by CSX as a part of negotiation with city. But it's not that could not be renegotiated. If you watch grade crossing of CSX and another company tracks at Homestead you would notice that most trains come through with speed 25 mph (and they follow it along GAP towards the city) but there are days when you see a train that goes 40 mph. This is due to the fact that dispatcher has authority to override permanent speed restriction, cancel temporary speed restriction, etc. So slow train on tracks that we are discussing could turn into fast one in a click of the mouse in a dispatcher's hand. So I am not 100% agree with you on this one either.
PS Just to eliminate confusion -- I work for the company that creates dispatching software for RR companies. CSX is one of our clients. If you stop by I will gladly show you software, equipment, etc (possibly life feed from CSX dispatching software). If you are interested I can show other equipment that company provides to RRs.
As I mentioned somewhere above - the constables told me that they were hired by Allegheny Valley not
Also, back this Spring an AVR train derailed just before it crossed 2nd Ave and was probably going less than 10 mph at the time. http://www.wpxi.com/news/news/local/breaking-train-derails-pittsburghs-hazelwood-neigh/nmGWx/
My guess is that AVR's lawyers or insurance company or RR regulators are looking to limit any safety exposure the company may have. Having people (walking, biking, etc) near active tracks is a huge liability for them
and they are actually trying to keep you
safe by keeping you away.
Bitching on a cycling message board is not going to change a thing. If you dont like the closure - contact the company, contact your local and state representatives, etc. That's how grownups change things.
Some local people to contact: Kristin Saunders, Mayor Peduto, Corey O’Connor and Bruce Kraus (a grade-level crossing would connect Districts 3 and 5).
Another place to work within the system is the Oakland bike/ped committee, the OPDC Green Team. This group works to identify, guide and implement greening activities throughout Oakland. They had a hand in the new Oakland bike lanes. I made them aware of the RR crossing problem at the meeting last month.
They meet the third Thursday each month-all are welcome! The next meeting is day after tomorrow
Date: Thursday, Oct 15
Time: 6:00 pm
Location: 294 Semple Street, 15213
or 412.621.7863 ext. 14 for more information.
More generally, having more cyclists at the public meetings where projects are discussed and permitted would be really, really helpful. Yes, it's duller than bitching, but it gets more done.
Again, the only two distinctions between this crossing and Neville/Boundary are the latter's superior legal status, and the former's superior safety record. A train will never hit a motor vehicle at the lake crossing, and a cyclist is much less likely to get hurt at the lake crossing.
MEETING UPDATE: The Green Team has a different meeting location this month. We'll meet in South Oakland at 3250 Parkview Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
I wonder if AVR is trying to create a pattern in behaviour just before the Greenfield Bridge closure.
Well, the first Monday after the bridge closed there are brand new signs on both sides of the track saying "Trespassers will be prosecuted", yellow tape across the path coming from the Panther Hollow side, and it looked like somebody tried to drag a big branch to block the way. With the Greenfield bridge closed forever, how would one suggest I get from Squirrel Hill to the Jail Trail?
From upper Sq Hill, down Schenley Drive or Circuit Rd, past Phipps, just across the bridge cut behind the Museum, go out Museum driveway, a block up Craig, right on a side street to Neville. Or, if you don't mind riding on Forbes, down Forbes to Craig to side street to Neville.
From lower Sq Hill, Pocusset to Greenfield to the stop light at the Bartlett playground, then the running trail to Anderson playground (or the road, if you want to mix it up with all the traffic) and onto the cycle track to Phipps, then over to Craig as above. Going home you can go up Overlook, which is one way to the top of the hill (pick it up at Anderson playground by taking the culvert and turning left at the swimming pool). At the bridge party the Baker Engineering guys told me that the construction equipment would be staged in such a way that the bike route via Pocusset would stay open.
It's not yet clear whether the traffic on the Blvd, Schenley Drive, and Forbes Ave will get better or worse as a result of the Greenfield Bridge closure.
You can also make your way over to Bates, go down and either walk up the trail next to the bike trail, or turn right onto 2nd Ave (either sidewalk or road) to the little entrance.
Another option is cutting through CMU off of Forbes past the Gates Hillman building down the little winding path to ride under the Facilities Management bldg and down through Panther Hollow. Or cut down next to the S Oakland bike shop down in to Panther Hollow.
Sorry about lack of specific street names- I don't know most of them.
Lots of options.
On a related note, here are seven routes from down on Boundary St to Frew St (near Phipps). Has anybody tried all of these? Which is fastest?
Alternatives to Hamerschlag Dr thru CMU
Please please please if you're going to bike on the CMU campus, be very courteous to the pedestrians, even if they're head-down in their smartphones or weaving without watching! I regularly have to make the case that bicyclists and pedestrians can co-exist on these walkways, and I'm pretty sure there are some folks who would like to ban bikes from the sidewalks and tell cyclists to park their bikes in the garage.
Cyclists and pedestrians have shared these walkways civilly for decades. If you want to bike here, please don't mess up a good thing by antagonizing the pedestrians.
Wean Hall is pretty mellow about bikes in the elevator -- I don't personally know about CIC.
Actually, it's probably not a great idea to advertise cycle routes through the campus without touching base with CMU -- a good contact person would be Karen Brooks, the designated cycling coordinator.
Anther route from westbound Forbes is to duck into the Electric Garage (former Exxon station) just west of the bridge over Neville, exit out the back onto Flossie Way, and go over to Filmore without getting tangled up on Craig. This is not so good eastbound because it requires a left turn out of the Electric Garage.
Also, this shouldn't have to be said, but don't ride bikes on the sidewalk on Craig St, especially the block near Forbes. It's a business district so it's actually not legal to ride on the sidewalk. Besides, the sidewalks are congested, and the local residents get really, really irritated.
I see the POS RR put in new signs and put up some "caution" tape to warn us WE WILL BE PROSECUTED! It was nice the community helped make that pond so nice. Of course the POS RR that could care less about the community puts up signs to scare us. Wow, 8 trains going slower than molasses in January is such a worry. Clearly there is some ego maniac that hates people running that line. He just wants to make life miserable, because he is miserable himself. People have been crossing there for decades. Probably a century, but of course some big shot wants to flip everyone off. A-hole!
On a bright note I was riding down the Nortfolk Southern line from Sharpsburg and the employees waved at me. I gave them plenty of room to go by and of course they were nice. Shame we have such an a-hole on that little slow line in Panther Hollow. Probably some newbie.
"My guess is that AVR’s lawyers or insurance company or RR regulators are looking to limit any safety exposure the company may have. Having people (walking, biking, etc) near active tracks is a huge liability for them and they are actually trying to keep you safe by keeping you away.
Bitching on a cycling message board is not going to change a thing. If you dont like the closure – contact the company, contact your local and state representatives, etc. That’s how grownups change things."
You are right on the money. All it takes is for one pansy ass wannabe whose daddy is a lawyer to trip and fall while portaging their artisinally patina'ed custom cruiser over those tracks and the owners, lessors, the city, etc will be sued in a New York heartbeat.
If you look at the scene objectively, people crossing those tracks the way they are is going to result in injury sooner or later. As soon as the severity of the injury and or the litigiousness of the victim reaches a certain point, there will be lawsuits. Not to mention, the potential for a severe injury is pretty high if you consider what you will land on even from a simple trip and fall.
I can see 2 reasonable fixes already mentioned here, either an at grade crossing, or a trail from Boundary Street along the other side.
I don't know which would be easier to get implemented, and maybe there are even better ideas.
Does Bike PGH have any kind of script we can use when contacting officials i.e. , a list of talking points?
Yeah people have been crossing those tracks for 100 years. I guess the good times are over.
Again, there is nothing that can be said against the lake crossing that cannot also be said about the Neville/Boundary crossing, except that the currently legal one is actually less safe to cross. Just make the lake crossing legit.
I bet this will all be forgotten in 6 months.
Same thing happens in Sharpsburg/Etna/Millvale. The RR access road was blocked, RR police harassed people. Then they went away.
Same thing here. Unless they build a fence for a mile or so on each side, there won't be a long term change.
@Eric, I tend to agree, but it doesn't hurt to keep pressure on city council, the mayor's office, and Bike/Ped coordinator, and CSX. All of these should be concerned if a fence was built. And we have a lot of power, right now, in Pittsburgh. Hiring constables may be the best they can do, and I don't think they'll want to keep paying for that forever.
If we stop riding it for a month, and the RR goes away, we can go back to riding it until the next time someone at the RR gets all worried about risk assessments.
If we involve others, I think the odds of a fence going up increases dramatically.
The only thing I can say is they better build one hell of a fence. Where there is a will there is a way.
Even with a fence, it's easy enough to cut a hole that continuously needs to be repaired. Not that I am advocating for such vandalism or trespassing, I'm just saying it's not sustainable to patrol it with Homeland Security every day, and if the slightest opportunity exists someone will take advantage of it, and plenty more will follow.
Being new to the board and reading this entire thread before responding, I'm surprised no one has brought up the other rogue crossing between Saline Street and the lot at the end of the jail trail. I seem to remember this being newsworthy a few years ago for the same issue, but it's been over a year since I've been down there, did they ever close it off? I have ridden that area a handful of times and always chose to carry my bike that way rather than the absurd legal entrance.
Yes, that one is getting attention, too, just not as much as this one. Somewhere back in this thread there was a reference to it.
The railroad people put some orange plastic fencing across that gate (near Saline St), but it didn't last long.
There is definitely some crazy hyperbole going on here, and I will even venture to say it's not half as big a deal as most of you are making it out to be.
Cutting Schenley Park in half? Hardly, have you ever looked at a map of the place?
All the work done to restore the lake? They are in the very early stages of this work, all of which has been implemented upstream of the lake to capture more stormwater. The lake is the same algae filled mess it's been for years, the path around the lake is awash in puddles and mud during any wet periods, and the boathouse and ice skaters are phantoms.
Cutting off access to Oakland...um, how exactly? I bet the vast majority of Pitt students have no idea where those steps at the end of Bouquet lead. If they are heading to the park, they are taking one of the bridges almost every time, most of all because there's nothing to see down in the valley, and you have to climb back up when you are done.
For trail riders who want to get from the rivers to the park, it poses a great problem. To me, the idea of remedying this by using the Bridle Trail connector is misguided as the main draw of this crossing is that it avoids a steep climb, you can enter the park in the valley and have a very gradual climb out of it, which none of the other options can provide. But I don't even think this cracks the top 5 as far as critical issues...in other words, the pro bike movement will continue in full force with this administration in this city even if we occasionally have to take one step back for every so many steps forward. It will suck for those that use this regularly or actually rely on it but life WILL go on.
It is a big issue. Maybe the rhetoric was hyperbolic, but without that connector there's no good way to go from Eliza Furnace trail to Squirrel Hill. The other way, via Greenfield Ave, is much steeper and traffic-filled. I was very comfortable showing my sons, when they were younger, how to get to the Eliza Furnace trail via Schenley Park using this path. I wouldn't have been nearly as comfortable showing them how to get there via Greenfield Ave.
And of course, with the Greenfield Bridge closed, this path is even more important.
The only other trail alternative is captured on video on the second page of this thread. It is not an option. [link
Another viable option is to ride straight down Panther Hollow Drive, taking the lane, both directions. A few cyclists feel comfortable doing that, but not many. See also: biking McKnight Rd, Saw Mill Run Blvd, Liberty Ave through the Strip, Penn Ave through Point Breeze, or West Carson Street.
But just imagine the shitstorm that would result if we started getting a couple hundred cyclists a day biking between Squirrel Hill and Oakland or Downtown via the main park road at rush hour.
Jonawebb, exactly this is an important connector for people trying to go from the eastern parts of the city to downtown. I used to be able to get downtown without riding on busy streets. That is no longer possible due to cutting off the duck hollow trail and panther hollow / junction hollow connection. The RR might be limiting their liability, but only by putting us at more risk.
@dfiler: I agree. Well said: "The RR might be limiting their liability, but only by putting us at more risk."
First person to get hurt biking on an alternate route needs to include the railroad in the inevitable lawsuit, on the justification that said person would not have been there if the lake crossing had been available.
Maybe we need to get people to make depositions in advance, now, so it can be on record that people are being more than inconvenienced, they are being put at risk, by this closure.
PIT2MAD is a troll following me around. Keep that in mind when reading his posts.
This thread is a wonderful example on why many people stopped posting on here.
Stu: First person to get hurt biking on an alternate route needs to include the railroad in the inevitable lawsuit, on the justification that said person would not have been there if the lake crossing had been available.
Maybe we need to get people to make depositions in advance, now, so it can be on record that people are being more than inconvenienced, they are being put at risk, by this closure.
More risk without a crossing than with one, that is for certain. Good points folks.
"This thread is a wonderful example on why many people stopped posting on here."
Why, because people are upset they can't keep off the roadways and have a pleasant ride along a nice lake and wonderful woods, instead of riding on the street that has no shoulder? I don't get it.
No, the poor design of the message board and the unfriendly user interface is why many people stopped posting here. Or at least I don't bother to check often.
gg while I am flattered you think I am following you around, it couldn't be further from the truth. I have been around for a while, and I still think of you as hcurtis.
I am a bike rider and I am sympathetic to 99% of your causes but I like to play devils advocate from time to time to get a better idea of the argument being presented.
Case in point: this thread. I have used this crossing and I fully support its remaining open in some form or another, but you are suggesting things that simply aren't true so I used my post to question the validity of some of them.
Call me a troll now if you want, but I've been posting at the other place for years now it's just that every time I make the mod mad I have to change up my names. I promise we agree on more than you think and I've backed you up plenty of times in the past.
I am very curious to what makes you think I am trolling you, I'll have to review some of my other posts under this name to see where I may have offended you. I was the one that referred to you in a post that led you to the skyscraper page, if that helps ;-)
Someone asked about the ramp to the UPMC parking lot on Saline--the plastic fence is (mostly) gone, but they've installed a permanent, metal truck gate at the top.
I stopped to speak with the guy in his truck there around noon today. When I asked if he got overtime for working on weekends, he said he did not know. When I asked how much he got paid, he said he "could" not tell me that information.
I did see an official looking jeep like vehicle parked on the side of the Panther Hollow lot next to the tracks. Not sure if this was related or not.
When I checked out the possibility of riding towards the lake from the CMU enclave they have created for construction and facilities use, there is an access road on the west side of the tracks, but nothing on the east side to allow access to the lake.
I did see at least 4 construction workers crossing the tracks next to the new building construction. To be fair, the railroad security people should be stopping them also. It appeared there was a fence constructed to prevent this, but that section was not vertical.
It seems like AVRR is also giving the cold shoulder to the city...
Peduto: East End commuter train plan derailed
From Elly Fisher of OPDC:
OPDC is convening a meeting to identify solutions for bike and pedestrian safety in Oakland. This week’s tragic deaths are our call to action and it’s important that we work together as a community to identify solutions that we can then work through the Oakland Task Force and the Oakland Green Team to garner public support and advocacy.
The meeting will be Wednesday, November 4th at 1pm at the Oakland Career Center, 294 Semple Street. Please let me know if you can attend.
If the PH lake RR crossing stays closed, that will throw more cyclists onto SqHill and Oakland streets. So this is a piece of the Oakland puzzle. At minimum, losing the RR crossing makes the Oakland problem worse.
I hope CMU implements the neville avenue trail soon, as mentioned on page 45 of their 2012 master plan.
It doesn't help everyone affected by the RR crossing closure. But it does make Neville a bit safer for people rerouted that way.
Didn't CMU just build a new parking lot in the space where that Neville/Boundary trail was proposed to go?
Thanks to alert cyclists who monitor the City Planning Commission agenda and attend hearings when necessary, the plans for CMU's Neville St parking lot were altered to preserve space for the trail between the parking lot and the railroad tracks.
(The time to get this sort of change made is before the permit is issued, not after they start moving dirt)
"First person to get hurt biking on an alternate route needs to include the railroad in the inevitable lawsuit, on the justification that said person would not have been there if the lake crossing had been available."
This may be the most asinine comment that I've read on this message board since I started reading it about 8 years ago. Such a lawsuit against the railroad would be frivolous to the point of being an ethical violation by the plaintiff's lawyer.
I wouldn't give it good odds at all, but it isn't without precedence. There are some rather old laws that are seldom exercised. Unfortunately our country doesn't give much credence to historical right of ways. Here is an interesting read about common law on right of ways in England.
It is similar to squatter's rights. Squatters rarely win but it isn't "asinine" or an "ethical violation".
You might be thinking about acquiring title by adverse possession. See http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/who-can-claim-property-based-adverse-possession-pennsylvania.html
for a description of the PA situation.
A couple of problems: the 21-year statutory period, the bit about exercising actual control, and the requirement for "exclusive possession".
More pertinent here would be an easement; in Pennsylvania this would be "An easement by prescription (also known as a “prescriptive easement”) arises from the continuous, notorious, adverse use of a driveway or similar path across another’s land for a period of twenty-one years. As a result, if one were to continuously and openly use a path across another’s land for a period of twenty-one years or more, without the permission of the owner, then at the end of that twenty-one year period, the trespasser would have a right to continued use of that path as a matter of prescriptive easement." http://www.wolfbaldwin.com/Real-Estate-Articles/Easements-and-Restrictive-Covenants.shtml
I also found references to implied dedication, in which the "easement" would be held by the public, but not a PA-specific version.
I think the show-stopper in any case would be the 21-year and continuous use requirements
Oh, and there are probably some special considerations because a railroad is involved
IANAL, of course
I wasn't suggesting that squatter rights applied. Only that there are laws most people aren't familiar with and that are seldom exercised. Sometimes landowners can be forced to allow continued travel through their private property. But yeah, IANAL.
"I wouldn’t give it good odds at all, ..."
You are confusing two different issues. The commentary that I characterized as asinine suggests that if the railroad prevents trespassing on its property and a cyclist is injured in the course of taking some other route, then the cyclist should sue the railroad, presumably under a negligence theory (any other theory would be even more asinine), and argue that the injured cyclist "would not have been there [on the street] if the lake crossing had been available." This is not even close to a viable legal basis for a claim under any body of American law. Among other reasons, the railroad has no "duty of care" (part of the burden of proof in a negligence claim) to someone who is injured on city streets by a third party. Also, the cyclist's injuries would not have been what the law calls "proximately caused" by the railroad's actions, particularly where the railroad was trying to protect itself and the public by barring passage in the first place. If a lawyer advanced such a theory in a lawsuit and I represented the railroad, I would seek monetary sanctions against the lawyer, maybe report the lawyer to the PA Supreme Court Disciplinary Board, and maybe sue the lawyer personally, under the Dragonetti Act, for wrongfully engaging in frivolous and unethical litigation. All that and more is why the commentary above is completely uninformed and asinine.
As for getting a court to grant an easement by adverse possession across a rail line, good luck with that. I spent many years as a lawyer litigating easement and property disputes with railroads in state court, federal court and the federal Surface Transportation Board, which is a regulatory agency and tribunal (administrative court) governing railroads. If you wish to know what the law really is, read the statute and case law providing that the vast majority of state and local laws governing or affecting railroads are "preempted" (a fancy way to say null and void) by one of the sections of the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995. It is in title 49 of the U.S. Code, or Google "ICCTA preemption." Hope this helps.
Thanks for the info. It isn't clear on the internet who is making baseless claims of certainty and who actually knows applicable laws. They aren't always intuitive.
So it sounds like an easement of some sort doesn't have precedence when dealing with railroads in the united states. That is unfortunate.
I'm not sure if public or political pressure would have much of an effect either. Railroads don't really care what the public thinks. They're not dealing with consumers and are relatively low profile in the media anyway.
An at-grade crossing would be nice but a bridge might be the only solution. Funding is the hard part.
Can anyone direct me to the bicycling message board that used to be at this address? Thanks!
I don't know what happened to all of the discussions about actually riding a bike. I learned a lot from them and would like to see a lot of those old commenters return. Most of that has been replaced by people complaining about infrastructure in and leading to the east end. I don't live there and not much of what's discussed here is relevant to me anymore. But I do try to chime in when my knowledge, typically of legal or mechanical issues, might advance the discussion. Sorry if that's an affront to you.
@Jacob - no, i'm not offended. And i'm relieved I'm not the only one who has recognized the shift on this board. Thanks!
Infrastructure is important! And a lot of people here live in the East End. But there's been discussion of it in other parts of the city; for example the Wabash Tunnel discussion.
I appreciate Jake's clarifying comments on the easement issue. I suspect that the only thing that will stop the railroad from building a fence there is if they need city permission for a construction permit. I hope they can't get that. But it seems they can have constables as long as they want to pay for them.
Complaining about people not discussing things in a forum where anyone can start any discussion they want seems counterproductive to me.
I think conversation disproportionately centers around stuff that's complicated or emotional. Bike facilities and all the complexities, bike riding style and tradeoffs depending on the former and road going environment, and of course, the post-facto video and crash stuff creates sort of the perfect storm for that.
There are some technical trade-offs in various sorts of riding, more if you're trying to push some envelope on performance or capability. I wouldn't at all mind seeing more of that discussed... especially on the cargo/kiddie end, though I have found something that's tolerable for my purposes.
But honestly, I'm not that surprised if it runs a little dry there. How much of that stuff is there is to talk about that's even peripherally relevant to most cyclists, who don't habitually try and push any envelopes? And once you've chosen your rig, how much is there to say about riding a bike? It's just a simple joy. Speaking of which, it was a freaking gorgeous morning for it, was it not?
Back on the thread topic, when was the last time someone went up via the trail and tracks? If it's reasonably likely to be clear, this would be a wonderful day to ride up through the gorge.
Heard at the members meeting: New website and improved message board coming in early 2016. So, maybe a better site and board will draw more voices to the forums (and hopefully the current crowd will not scare them away).
@Jacob Thanks for your comments on this subject. Not sure why anyone would think bike infrastructure isn't important on a Pittsburgh Bicycle site, but I for one certainly think it is important. I would love safe cycling for all in Pittsburgh. Like any message board, you just read a title and if it is of interest you read it, if it isn't don't. Also, if you have questions or want to discuss something post a topic. Lots of great folks here that are super helpful.
Thank you Jacob for sharing your legal knowledge.
ALMBLM, You're welcome to start other threads and discuss other topics. I would enjoy reading those as well. No sense in criticizing those who want to discuss the closure of bicycle routes that they use. The BikePGH forum is the perfect place for that discussion.
I went by the crossing at Panther Hollow Lake (where the railroad crosses the trail) yesterday and it was fine.
John, one more time:
1. Rails and the tunnel are CSX property.
2. Constables are hired by AVR.
3. CSX is not interested in crossing. Fence is much cheaper but it still costs some money. CSX is not going to talk to the government about at grade crossing because the government is the one that discourages this type of crossings. CSX is happy about the current state.
4. AVR is not interested in crossing since tracks are not their.
Think who is paying for what.
I'm haven't lived close enough in years to know if it still runs, but the AVR used to run a train or two a day through the Strip District on a track that has dozens of at-grade crossings, including new pedestrian crossings for the Cork Factory lofts and the newer retail building in front of it.
Maybe they stopped this practice, but the tracks seem to get regular use. Seems an odd tact to take if they control (can we really use the word "own" for an easement?) both the Junction Hollow track and the Strip District track.
AVR does still run trains in the strip and in lawrenceville, and yes, there are MANY crossings along that rail line. Though, it's typically only local deliveries on those tracks from what I understand, and not really through traffic as on much of the other tracks which are causing problems for trail connectivity. Also, most of the train traffic is at night in the strip and lawrenceville, likely to avoid conflicts with auto traffic.
Seems an odd tact to take if they control (can we really use the word “own” for an easement?) both the Junction Hollow track and the Strip District track.
CSX controls (and I think owns tracks along junction hollow and tunnel. All of them are in our software where GIS data are provided by CSX.
If one were so inclined, there was no guard stationed at the track crossing this afternoon. I did not notice any cameras, but a lot of the brush had been cleared from the area.
This got me wondering- where does the park land stop and the railroad land start? Who owns the side nearest the trail- and if not the railroad, is that a legitimate parking place open to the public?
It's all city land. But don't park there. I posted a link to the Allegheny county map a ways back.
AVR/CSX recently put in a gate on the shortcut between Saline and the UPMC parking lot (complete with a No Trespassing-ish sign).
But other than hiring some bulls they haven't done anything concrete about the Panther Hollow crossing (like gating or fencing).
I mean, there looks to be be new fencing downhill from there; what's the problem with going all the way? I can't help thinking that this means that the crossing is a legal right-of-way. Can anyone explain how to positively determine its status?
At the very least people could print out the relevant document and show it to the bulls when they cross.
I fully accept AVR's right to protect itself from legal action (and, secondarily, ensure public safety). But they should also be willing to just solve the problem (with a signaled crossing or an overpass) rather than screwing around by having "constables" intimidating innocent citizens. (And, as a peeve, why is it that they get to drive their vehicles up to the crossing? Isn't the trail supposed to be only for ped/bike/official?)
I think the railroad owns the land where they built the fence between Saline St and the Eliza Furnace Trail parking lot. See http://www2.county.allegheny.pa.us/RealEstate/Map.aspx?ParcelID=0029M00151000A02%20%20%20%20&SearchType=2&CurrRow=16&SearchName=&SearchStreet=saline&SearchNum=&SearchMuni=&SearchParcel=&pin=0029M00151000A02
Owner is B&O Railroad.
The Panther Hollow crossing & adjacent property is all owned by the city, so no fence, I think.
B&O? Could be. the RR map says it's CSX. In any case AVR is leasing the rail from whoever, and they're most likely the problem.
The Panther Hollow crossing & adjacent property is all owned by the city, so no fence, I think.
Surely there's at least 6" (or whatever) on the RR property for a fence. I mean, it's there a bit further down.
So what's with the bulls? Why do they get to occupy public property (so to speak) for the purpose of intimidate citizens?
That's all wrong.
The railroad company owns the tracks, not the property, as I understand it. Mikhail knows more. They have a primary right there, which means something special legally. I had a lawyer friend attempt to explain it.
The constables seem to be there at the Panther Hollow crossing about half the times I've been by (mostly afternoons) in the past two weeks. I've seen them there on a Saturday. And I've seen them not there on a Wednesday. Also, some days there are yellow ribbons up and other days they're gone.
PS: B&O got absorbed into CSX years ago.
It sounds like form what I am reading above, there should not be any automobiles driven up the bike path and parked on the city land then.
On could be inclined to call 311 or 911 next time I see cars parked there.
Well, except that they might have to get the city's permission before building on city land.
@Mikhail's pointer is interesting.
The parcel in question includes a chunk of the trail. What does that mean? Is everyone using the Junction Hollow trail trespassing? On what, exactly?
Also, There's $913.30 back taxes due on the parcel for this year (it has a $172.4k valuation). Taxes have been delinquent for the past 4 years. Yes, the City is the owner of record; so what's up with that?
It's all very confusing.
Ahlir, maybe we will get lucky and Jacob would enlighten us. He sure knows about this stuff. It really saddens me to hear the RR still hires constables to threaten people crossing in that place people have been crossing for probably over 100 years or even more. What a shame.
That article from the Tartan reminded me of a route I took through CMU's campus Saturday when the Panther Hollow link was being guarded. Maybe it's not obvious, so here's the route: ride along the trail and then follow Boundary Street to the CMU parking garage. Enter the parking garage and follow the walking path up through the hollow between Wean Hall (big concrete building on your right) and the various robotics / CS buildings on the left. It's a fairly easy climb up to the parking lot exit to Forbes. There are some dead ends where you come to a stairway, but you can do the entire climb without ever having to get off your bike.
You could also continue to your right and ride through CMU's campus to Frew Street and Schenley Drive.
Of course, on all of the walking paths watch out for students etc.
Jon, I have done that many times, but lets face it, it sucks. The wonderful trail by the pond is a wonderful ride. Lots of nature and just amazing. It reminds us all of times gone by, since now it is so different. Many years ago people were really kind to one and other. Not it is all about attorney's and lawsuits, so everyone turned ugly. I really can't stand the ambulance chasing attorneys like Snyder and the likes. YUCK! What an existence. How proud they must be. Geez!
@gg: Yes, ambulance chasers are indeed a specie of bottom-feeder. But Edgar Snyder is actually supportive of cycling (beyond its revenue potential).
People on the whole are still kind and supportive, by and large.
The remainder are a minority. All I can say is: make sure you vote.
And show up for all those boring community meetings to tell your representatives what's important; otherwise someone else will.
[as an out-of-band/not a flame-bait comment: in nature, bottom feeders actually serve a valuable function. They keep the, uh, bottom clean.]
At crossing of RR tracks near Panther Hollow Lake, looking south along Junction Hollow Trail. Note the recently-cut trees and the chipped wood. Who did this, and why?
Good question Paul. I haven't been down there for a few days. Not getting my hopes up considering the renter of the RR tracks hires hitmen to keep people from crossing an area that has been crossed for over 100 years. Oh well.
Last year Roy Weil and Mary Shaw alerted me to a trail that was built in the 90s connecting from the Bridle Trail in Schenley Park down to Four Mile Run near Proctor’s Garage on Boundary St. It had become overgrown, so over the past few months, I and Roy cleared the trail of fallen trees and brush so that it’s now passable again. Not bikeable all the way, unless you’re a very good mountain biker, but easily walkable. Many could bike at least half of it. The trail is quite wide in places — it must have been created with a bulldozer or other heavy equipment. Mary tells me that Larry Ridenour was responsible for the original construction.
We’ve christened it the “Zigzag Trail” and I entered it into Google Maps using Mapmaker. If you use Google Maps and ask for cycling directions from Bartlett and Hobart to Big Jim’s, it now recommends this route, as shown below. On this map I’ve highlighted it in magenta. To find the trail, look for yellow ribbons marking the way.
If AVR harassment of people crossing the railroad tracks at Panther Hollow Lake resumes, this connector, though not perfect, should help cyclists and pedestrians get through.
An old post about the Zigzag Trail (from Mary Shaw, 2015/7/23): http://localhost/mb/topic/impending-track-closure-near-panther-hollow-lake/#post-315179
Great, thank you! I will try this tomorrow. I did try to get up to the bridle trail a few weeks ago, but I think I must have missed the first switchback "zig," because while there was a path it seemed pretty freaking steep, especially pushing my commuter bike. I think I came out further north, too, closer to the WPA bridge. I will keep an eye out for the yellow markers.
How different is this from the goat path
I traversed last summer?
@StuInMcCandless: As I mentioned, this trail is very wide in places, making it more bikeable. Its average grade is lower. See comparison of Zigzag and "Goat" trails here: http://goo.gl/lT0LWO
Ah, yes - I was definitely on the goat path! It was fun to do once...
I won't be able to get over there with video for several days. Can someone else do that? Bottom to top, top to bottom, preferably both?
Note that last summer, before I ran video on the Bridle-Junction goat path, I looked for any other path off the Bridle Trail. I would have gone past the split for Zigzag twice and not seen it. So half the battle of using either of these is finding it in the first place.
Good work on getting that mapped! Though I would suggest a name other than zigzag trail. Perhaps something like Junction Hollow Connector.
Thank you. I just noticed the clearing the other day but didn't explore it.
I rode up this the other day. I had to push a couple times, but it's way better than it was in the fall when I decended the trail. Not what I would call a commuter friendly route, but nice to have. I saw some yellow marking tape on the trees, which made it easy to follow.
Ran in to a couple hikers on the way up.
I've said this before - I believe that trail was shut down more because the people who lived at the bottom of it did not want foot traffic going through there - like kids drinking beer.
This seems to be the major opposition point for various stairways and pedestrian through routes. Easy enough to make some spurious - and often untrue - claim about safety.
So, uh, Mick. Are you suggesting we should have a kegger up there? Maybe try to work something into that East End Brewery ride?
At the meetings last year regarding the ALMONO shuttle proposal, many residents of The Run and Panther Hollow neighborhoods spoke up angrily about the constables' closure of the Panther Hollow Lake crossing. They like to take walks in Schenley Park. I imagine some of them will welcome the newly-cleared Zigzag Trail (when they discover it) as another way to get into Schenley Park, though it involves a lot more climbing than the RR crossing.
There seems to be at least one person that has torn down yellow ribbons at times in recent months, for unknown reasons, so there could be others that feel differently about it.
This was an interesting listen this morning. *Somebody* mobilized, that's for sure.
Greenfield Residents Fear Redevelopment Will Pass Them By In Almono Shuttle
"While families in The Run have been there for three or four generations, up the hill in Greenfield, people are moving in from out of town and out of state to work in Pittsburgh.
Matt Burton, a University of Pittsburgh postdoc, is one of them. He said getting to campus daily is an ordeal.
'Going the 2 miles that it would take can take upwards of 30 to 45 minutes in a car even,' he said. 'And that’s just to get to Oakland from Greenfield.'
Burton said parking for his building has a three-year waitlist and biking is made difficult by the closure of the Greenfield Bridge. He said he finds the bus system slow and unreliable, but likes the idea of a shuttle, as long as it’s open to everyone – a view held by many in Greenfield."
I dunno, so buy property in South Oakland? Easy access to Downtown & campus.
2 freaking miles, an ordeal? Somebody needs to clue postdoc Matt Burton in on the invention of that there bi-cycle.
It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to walk two miles.
To be fair, the loss of the Greenfield Bridge is a PITA, for sure.
Today I saw these shiftless assholes
loitering on the RR tracks. Where are the AVR constables?
Oh my deer!
I recognize these three scofflaws! They were at the Panther Hollow trailhead parking lot a few days ago.
I don't normally go by here for time's sake, but it's so much more pleasant that I'd like to start at it again, at the very least if I start running one day a week for training as I should. Have the constables been out? If they have, once you're at the point you see them, what's the best detour in each direction lake->run, run->squirrel hill?
The last time I heard reports of constables where the railroad tracks cross the trail at Panther Hollow Lake was November 2015.