Aspinwall residents question plan to access riverfront via Eastern Avenue

The Cornerstone Restaurant sits on the corner of Eastern Avenue and Freeport Road in Aspinwall.

The Cornerstone Restaurant sits on the corner of Eastern Avenue and Freeport Road in Aspinwall.

Tawnya Panizzi

| Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, 5:42 p.m.

Members of a standing-room-only audience questioned Aspinwall Council last week about a proposal by Riverfront 47 developers to reconfigure the Eastern Avenue intersection with Freeport Road.

Audience members raised concerns about traffic congestion, but council said any move to redesign Eastern Avenue to accommodate access to a potential development along the Allegheny River is well into the future.

“Any decision is still a ways off,” Councilman Trip Oliver said during the meeting on Aug. 10. He said council is trying to determine what impact the project could have on local traffic, and members are working with PennDOT to determine if a redesign even is possible.

The Riverfront 47 site is a 1.5-mile strip of land that stretches from Aspinwall to Sharpsburg and is being developed by Fox Chapel residents Susan and Currie Crookston and The Mosites Co., known for projects including the Eastside Bond residential and commercial complex in East Liberty.

“We are very community-minded and we want to be good listeners,” said Chris Minnerly of Mosites. “We want this project to be a success.”

Residents said they want to be heard early in the planning stage. David Brown, a resident for 25 years, said an infrastructure change of this magnitude never before has been proposed to council.

“The entire community should be notified,” he said.

Council meets next at 7 p.m. Sept. 7 in the municipal building on Commercial Avenue.

Nearby Brilliant Avenue originally was to be reconstructed by Aspinwall Riverfront Park, as an access to the Allegheny River shoreline. The park property is managed by the Crookstons’ company, Allegheny Development, and abuts Riverfront 47.

The park board secured a $1.4 million grant for the work, but board member Nancy Kingsley said members reconsidered because of limited visibility along Brilliant.

She said an Eastern Avenue entrance to the Riverfront 47 site would be the safest and most convenient option, and would double as an entrance to the park. Designs would include a traffic light and landscape reconfiguration.

Kingsley said the park board has agreed to allow Riverfront 47 to use the grant money for Eastern Avenue instead because Norfolk Southern rail lines only permits one access across its tracks.

Residents questioned why the park board would allow traffic from Riverfront 47 to flow through the park, but Kingsley said the access would utilize just a small portion of the property.

“The park was established with the intent that the Brilliant (Avenue) project was good,” Brown said. “I think we’re getting the bait and switch.”

Kingsley said Riverfront 47, in exchange for the grant dollars, would give the park a piece of land with a view of the river and allow a trail to continue along the shore from Aspinwall to Etna.

Resident Karen Hart asked council to consider local residents who, she said, will be left to deal with additional traffic congestion in town.

Resident Gary Britcher questioned whether Center Avenue could be considered, moving the change away from an already-congested Eastern Avenue where parking is allowed on one side and customers of The Cornerstone restaurant, for example, sit on the opposite sidewalk for outdoor dining.

Council Vice President Ann Marsico assured residents that decisions will be made with transparency. She said public meetings will be scheduled to allow residents to ask questions and air concerns.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach her at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at