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New bill could bring improvements to Allegheny River Boulevard

Bill could drive improvements to Allegheny River Boulevard
Bill could drive improvements to Allegheny River Boulevard 02:45

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — While cruising along Allegheny River Boulevard, you may not know why it was built in the 1930s.

It was designed with observation turnouts to show off the beautiful Allegheny River Valley and get people out of the smoggy, crowded cities during the Great Depression.

A bill passed the state House on Wednesday that would designate Allegheny River Boulevard as a scenic byway, which could help preserve and restore its beauty.

"They actually looked at it as a scenic byway and those stone turnouts were there so that you could pull in, have a picnic lunch, have a scenic view," said Rick Duncan, chairperson of Allegheny River Boulevard Preservation Association.

Duncan said the 6-mile road between Pittsburgh and Oakmont isn't what it used to be.

"Right now, it's basically an overgrown green tunnel and people don't even realize that there's a river out there. They don't know what those stone structures are about," he said.

The three 90-year-old turnouts made of stone are closed down with barriers across the entrances.

"In various stages of, let's say, neglect and falling apart, being overgrown by trees that roots are going to tear it apart," said Duncan.

But Allegheny River Boulevard is driving closer to being designated as a scenic byway. Legislation introduced by State Rep. Joe McAndrew of Penn Hills would make that happen.

"We want to make sure that people are enjoying that experience they enjoyed in 1934 in their Model T's, and we want to make sure that they're enjoying it today as well," Rep. McAndrew said.

Allegheny River Boulevard was designated as a national register-eligible historic district 20 years ago.

The scenic byway designation could gas up the Allegheny River Boulevard Preservation Association's efforts to improve the historic road.  

Duncan said the non-profit organization has already done a lot of work, but it wants to continue cleaning up overgrown vegetation, add beautiful plants and trees, do more trash clean-ups, and prevent the stone turnouts from falling apart.

"This brings in the possibility of funding for that sort of stabilizations and rehab, but also improvements to the right of way so that you can actually enjoy the view of the river again," Duncan said.

While officials can't go back in time to make it look as beautiful as it did during the Great Depression, Duncan is thrilled they're driving in the right direction.

"It's possible maybe one day, not only will we have a trail along there somewhere but also be able to open the turnouts. That would be a dream too," he said.

Meanwhile, Duncan said the Allegheny River Boulevard Preservation Association is starting its preservation management plan project. It raised $40,000 from donations, grants and foundations. It contracted a professional consultant to identify significant issues and prioritize their future work.

The bill now heads to the state Senate. Rep. McAndrew hopes it'll make it to the governor's desk and they'll see some of the improvements before the U.S. Open takes place in Oakmont next year.

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