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U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania), U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pennsylvania-14), Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto announced Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Transportation had awarded the Sports & Exhibition Authority $19 million to assist in the redevelopment of the Pittsburgh’s Lower Hill District. Federal, state, county and local leaders have been working together for several years to secure federal funding for the project, according to a press release from officials.
The $19 million was awarded through the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recover Discretionary Grant program. TIGER Grants can be used for road, rail, transit or port projects that will achieve national objectives. Over the last seven years, the federal government has provided more than $4.5 billion in TIGER grants. The U.S. Department of Transportation will announce the eighth round of TIGER Grant awards this week.
The city plans to build a dome-like structure over what officials call the "I-579 cap." It will be a three-acre open space with routes for walking and biking between the Hill District and downtown. There will also be connections to the T. City officials said they want to eliminate the physical barriers between the two neighborhoods.
The SEA requested $19 million in TIGER Grant funding earlier this year. The city of Pittsburgh and its partners also received $1.5 million in TIGER Grant funding in 2014 to assist in the planning phase of the project.
The funding will be used to reestablish the connection between the Lower Hill District and downtown Pittsburgh that was destroyed decades ago when Interstate 579 and the Civic Arena were built. Officials said that by providing improved access between these neighborhoods and to the transit system Downtown, the I-579 Cap Urban Connector will promote public and private development in the Hill District and help create new jobs for Hill District residents.
Casey, Doyle, Fitzgerald and Peduto all weighed in on the impact that the grant will have on the city:
Casey: “I commend Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Mayor Peduto and Congressman Doyle in our cooperative effort to secure this award. Reconnecting the Lower Hill District to downtown Pittsburgh is critical to the region’s economy, helping the community to receive greater access to the economic development gains Pittsburgh has experienced over the past few decades. Redeveloping this 28-acre site will create jobs and make important improvements to the region’s infrastructure that are long overdue. I’ll continue to support efforts to ensure we’re investing in and improving community development here and across Pennsylvania.”
Doyle: “TIGER grants are awarded through a very competitive process. The Department of Transportation receives hundreds of proposals for each round of TIGER grant funding, but only a few dozen applicants end up receiving grants. The fact that we were chosen – and received all of the funding we requested – is remarkable, and it speaks volumes about the merit of this project and the quality of the application we submitted. This project will help all of Pittsburgh, but it will especially help the Hill District by ending its isolation and bringing jobs and economic growth to the community. That change is long overdue. I think the diversity of stakeholders was critical to our application’s success, and I’m proud of the community-wide support for our application.”
Fitzgerald: “We are grateful for the support of our partners, particularly Sen. Casey and Congressman Doyle, for their efforts in advocating for this project and its funding. We have always seen success when we work together, and this announcement is more evidence of exactly that philosophy. We are excited to see this portion of the project move forward with this funding, and thank the Department of Transportation for its support of this effort.”
Peduto: “This award will help heal one of Pittsburgh’s worst efforts at urban renewal, when decades ago city planners separated the Hill District from Downtown and cut the life-blood from one our most historic communities. This grant will not only help reconnect the Hill and Downtown, but bring much-needed improvements to pedestrian safety and green space in the neighborhood.”
The project is expected to start next year and will take two years to complete.