PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Washington Boulevard is a bowl or a basin and unsuspecting motorists were tragically trapped when it suddenly filled up August 19, 2011.
“There’s enough space in here to create a 22-acre lake probably as high as 15 feet in depth,” Pittsburgh City Councilman Patrick Dowd said.
To prevent a future tragedy, the city has installed gates to close the roadway on both ends when the basin begins to fill.
It’s also studying widening the underground drainage pipes, but Councilman Dowd says those efforts fall short.
“You can’t build a pipe that’s big enough,” he said.
So, he’s proposing a bold solution.
“If you’re going to solve this problem, if you genuinely going to make it so you don’t have a 22-acre lake like we had on August 19th, you’ve got to find a way to find a way for that water flow naturally to the river,” Dowd said.
Dowd says underneath this ground is Negley Creek which runs into the storm sewers. His solution is to unearth or “daylight” the creek and have it flow under Allegheny River Boulevard and into the Allegheny River, but the city administration says the plan may do more harm than good.
“Well, I get concerned about when people start to shoot from the hip and throw ideas out is that we don’t want to create more public safety hazards than what we currently have there,” Public Safety Director Michael Huss said.
Huss says having an open channel is a danger to children and others, but the plan goes even further.
As part of this ambitious plan, Dowd and others would like to tear down the police and fire training academy and turn this entire stretch into a public park space.
Dowd would like to raze the training academy and nearby Zone 5 police station, which he calls flood-prone and antiquated. He’d like to recombine the entire space with adjoining Highland Park, creating in essence a super park.
“You’re actually taking this really dangerous space and making it into a beautiful public space and a beautiful place for people to recreate,” Dowd said.
Huss dismisses the plan out of hand.
“When I look at those two facilities that’s our entire capital bond program for two or three years,” he said. “I mean, you’re literally talking tens of millions of dollars just in those facilities.”
Whether this plan gains traction will depend largely on public support and public money. Proponents hope to tap federal, state and local government for a price tag estimated at tens of millions of dollars.