Biden administration transportation officials joined regional Pittsburgh leaders Thursday to celebrate a monumental investment in the city’s Hill District. The city will receive $11.3 million from the bipartisan infrastructure deal to make a list of improvements along Center Avenue.

Pittsburgh will receive one of only two federal grants in Pennsylvania from the Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity program. Stephanie Pollack, acting administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, said at a press conference at the Thelma Lovette YMCA that Pittsburgh’s proposal won out over other cities in part because of cooperation between the region’s various levels of government and its private partnerships. .

“The way the private sector, the city, the county, the Pennsylvania DOT had already laid the groundwork by creating the vision,” Pollack said. “That was one of the things that really shined in the application for this Hill District Project.”

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Kiley Koscinski



Stephanie Pollack, acting administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, spoke at a news conference in the Hill District on Thursday.

Pollack’s appearance in Pittsburgh was part of a nationwide tour led by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Officials are touting the benefits of a massive investment in infrastructure ahead of midterm elections in November.

Another key factor in Pittsburgh’s successful grant application was the city’s plan to invest the money in a low-income area that had historically been left out of the development picture, Pollack said. The RAISE grant program focuses on promoting investment in neighborhoods that have historically suffered from racist federal policies, such as redlining that prevented residents from achieving wealth and—in the case of Pittsburgh—catalyzed the displacement of a large community that still waiting for his chance to rebuild.

The RAISE grant comes alongside other landmark investments in the redevelopment of the Hill District, particularly the Lower Hill. A new grocery store is slated to open on Center Avenue in the coming months. The Pittsburgh Penguins are moving along with their plan to build a 26-story office tower at the former Civic Arena site. Several other developers have posted their flags at construction sites on buildings along Center Avenue.

Alluding to the projects, Mayor Ed Gainey said Thursday that the $11.3 million grant “couldn’t have come at a better time.”

“This is how we rebuild the vibrancy of the Hill District. That’s how we create economic opportunity,” Gainey said. “That’s what we do to bring back what’s been taken from this neighborhood. And it starts with infrastructure.”

According to the Department for Transport, the grant will support “people-focused infrastructure investment”. The city will rebuild major Center Avenue intersections with new crosswalks and transit shelters, and plant trees along the corridor. Crews will also build new sidewalks where there are currently none.

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Kiley Koscinski



Part of the $11.3 million investment will rebuild sidewalks in the Hill District and add sidewalks where there are currently none.

But Pollack emphasized that the RAISE program is about more than new ramps and sidewalks. “It’s about people,” she said. “And what it will do to improve their lives every day.”

Another critical project will directly benefit tenants of the Bedford Dwellings public housing complex. The city will use the grant to rebuild the Chauncey Street city steps and install new sidewalks to take pedestrians to the Center Avenue business corridor.

Rev. Lee Walls, executive chairman of the Christian Community Development Corporation, said the federal investment would help residents have better access to health care, employment and the cultural district. Speaking at Thursday’s news conference, Lee characterized the investment as a critical part of the Hill District’s rebuilding.

“I am truly honored, not only for those of us who now live in the Hill District, but for our ancestors,” Lee said. “Now, we can continue on the path of developing our community and providing a higher quality of life for all who live here.”

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