Bigelow Block Transformation: Key Oakland Connection Reopens

  • The new streetscape between Fifth and Forbes Avenues includes safe, separated paths for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists; updated utility infrastructure; additional landscaping and more for the Pitt campus and community. (Tom Altany/University of Pittsburgh)
  • A cobblestone street with a bike lane with a black SUV driving down the center lane
    Bigelow Boulevard is a major connector in the Oakland neighborhood. New bike lanes separate cyclists from motor traffic and enhance safety for all. (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Sustainability is a key feature in the new Bigelow block streetscape. Planters enhance pedestrian safety and help manage stormwater. Additional landscaping will be completed in spring. (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • A side view of a completed street project, through trees and over a lawn
    This key Oakland connection at the heart of the University campus now features a new mid-block pedestrian crosswalk, traffic calming design and separate paths for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)

A reimagined Bigelow Boulevard between Fifth and Forbes Avenues has reopened to all traffic.

Bigelow Boulevard is located in the heart of the University’s Pittsburgh campus between the William Pitt Union and Cathedral of Learning buildings, with renovations that provide a welcoming and appealing new pathway connecting Pitt, Schenley Plaza, the Oakland business district and Oakland community.

The new streetscape includes safe, separated paths for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists; updated utility infrastructure; additional landscaping and more for the Pitt campus and community.

The University partnered with the City of Pittsburgh, which owns Bigelow Boulevard, to align much-needed infrastructure work with the city’s complete streets policy to coordinate a single project for the block that enhances pedestrian safety and accommodates all modes of transportation more safely and efficiently.   

The Bigelow Block Transformation Project, which started in November 2019, was initially slated to be completed in August 2020, but COVID-19 paused construction work for two months and delayed the delivery of concrete planters and barriers. Bigelow Boulevard reopened Dec. 24, 2020, two months after pedestrian access was restored.

“I am grateful to Mayor Bill Peduto and the City of Pittsburgh for their continued partnership,” said University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “The new-and-improved Bigelow Boulevard is safer, more accessible and set to enhance how University of Pittsburgh students, neighbors and visitors will experience Oakland for decades to come.”  

In a prepared release, Mayor Bill Peduto said, “I’d like to thank the University of Pittsburgh, Chancellor Gallagher and the Oakland community for developing and implementing an improvement plan that creates a safer experience for the thousands of people who use this block of Bigelow—students, commuters, neighbors and people who work in Oakland.”

The Bigelow block plan was developed in collaboration with the Oakland Business Improvement District, Oakland Transportation Management Association, Oakland Planning and Development Corporation and was part of the Pittsburgh Campus Master Plan process.   

The total cost of the project, including utility upgrades, streetscaping, landscaping and work on the William Pitt Union’s grounds, was $23.7 million. The project was funded by the University of Pittsburgh general budget and a $1 million grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development with support from Sen. Jay Costa, Rep. Frank Dermody and Rep. Dan Frankel. 

Project highlights include:  

  • Safety and traffic flow: The new streetscape provides a better, safer experience through a comprehensive multimodal-mobility plan, providing expanded sidewalks and crosswalk lanes, an enhanced mid-block pedestrian crosswalk, traffic calming,  bus stop improvements and bike lane upgrades.
  • Accessibility: Accessibility between the William Pitt Union and recently renovated Schenley Quadrangle is significantly improved.  
  • Infrastructure: Updates to water lines, chilled water supply and power distribution lines support the campus master plan and benefit the community, as well as create the resiliency and redundancy needed to support a preeminent research University.  
  • Connectivity: The overall design creates a new welcoming and appealing pathway to Schenley Plaza, the Oakland business district and the Oakland community, as well as providing a flexible new space for student activities and programming outside the William Pitt Union.   
  • Sustainability: From new green spaces and energy efficiencies to a system that will manage rainfall through sustainable landscaping practices, this important renovation project supports Pitt’s commitment to sustainability.   
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