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"Shared Space" Concept Being Discussed To Make Downtown's Gateway Center Safer

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- There's an idea being discussed for part of Downtown Pittsburgh that could change things in a way you might not expect.

It's a concept called "shared space" and if it actually happens, it could create a more "plaza-like" atmosphere in Gateway Center with cars, bicyclists and pedestrians all sharing the space in a different way than they do now.

The idea started with a discussion of how to make intersections safer, including the one where Stanwix, Liberty and Forbes all come together.

Jeremy Waldrup from the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership says local folks were joined in the session by the AARP and another group from Portland, Oregon.

He says one of the challenges comes from the car traffic coming into Downtown.

"You have cars coming in off the Fort Pitt Bridge out of the tunnel at highway speed," said Waldrup. "They enter Downtown and some of them still feel like they should be going 45 or 50 miles an hour."

And that's how a "shared space" street concept came up. Some car traffic could be diverted to other streets such as the Boulevard of the Allies and the rest of the car traffic would be encouraged to slow down, according to Waldrup.

"Really making it slow," said Waldrup. "You can do that similar to Market Square. There's cobblestones there so folks can't really drive fast comfortably."

Some towns in Europe have embraced the "shared space" concept. And in some cases, crosswalks and traffic signals actually disappear.

"That's probably one extreme," said Waldrup. "Just to take everything away and then you have folks traveling at five to 10 miles an hour, so people are interspersed with traffic."

One idea to test this idea is to possibly shut down a short section of Penn Avenue from Stanwix to where it meets Liberty Avenue. Cars wouldn't be able to travel on it, so it would be just people and bicycles. Also, the bicycle lane on Penn could then extend all the way to Point State Park, according to Waldrup.

"It would be in a plaza space maybe with some big planters with trees, tables and chairs," said Waldrup.

While nothing has been approved, Waldrup hopes they can incorporate some of the ideas of "shared spaces" even if they don't do everything.

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