Image courtesy of Phronesis Design and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
A mock-up of the Four Mile Run green infrastructure project
The residents of Four Mile Run, an isolated neighborhood on the edge of Greenfield, have wanted one thing for a very long time: a major sewage infrastructure project to alleviate its flooding problems. The neighborhood nestled in a valley south of Oakland consistently sees flooding in heavy rains, including the overflowing of Saline Street
in September 2016.
In December 2015, Pittsburgh officials attempted to convince the neighborhood to support a transit project that would have shuttled autonomous vehicles through Four Mile Run (this was part of the city’s Smart Cities
transit application that the city wasn’t awarded). Most Four Mile Run residents opposed the transit project
, and many argued that if the city was going to invest in the neighborhood, an infrastructure project to solve the area’s flooding issues should be first on the list.
Now, the push for that project has intensified. Environmentally minded groups like Pittsburgh United, Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, the Sierra Club and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy have banded together to lobby for a green infrastructure plan for Four Mile Run
. Sections of this plan have already been implemented, like the installation of a native-grass meadow on Beacon Street in Squirrel Hill, which helps absorb precipitation into groundwater, and keeps some water from flowing into Four Mile Run.
“Rather than just investing in underground tunnels that no one can see, we should be investing in comprehensive green solutions,” says Aly Shaw, the environmental-justice organizer for Pittsburgh United. “Especially for the Greenfield residents, they really want something to be done about flooding in [Four Mile Run].”
Plans include installation of native vegetation in curb bump-outs on streets above Four Mile Run, and switching out pavement on Oakland streets that can absorb more water. Shaw says the Four Mile Run project should top the city’s list for green infrastructure projects
“There is no better project to try to get something implemented than Four Mile Run,” says Shaw. “It will create community benefits; it’s a win and win.”
Shaw says that in addition to reducing flood issues in Four Mile Run, the project can make streets safer and more pleasant for bikes and pedestrians by installing Complete Streets design and more trees. To garner the additional support necessary to really get the project moving, Pittsburgh United has started a petition
to raise awareness and to show how much the community supports this project.
Shaw says the Four Mile Run coalition is trying to get some of the project funded through Pittsburgh’s capital budget. Shaw says the petition currently has more than 200 signatures, and that about 80 concerned residents attended a recent meeting to learn about the project. The petition states that “for a $30 million investment the Four Mile Run [project] can deliver as much as $300 million in stormwater reduction benefits.”
Organizers plant to submit the petition to Pittsburgh City Councilors on Aug. 3.