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Project Profile: I-579 "Cap" Urban Connector Project: Bridging a Critical Gap to Revitalize the Hill District, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Bridge rendering.

The Cap will be a 3-acre urban open space connector covering the below grade I-579 highway providing for a seamless connection between the Hill District to the east, and Downtown to the west.

Source: Credit to The Public Auditorium Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County

Project Name

I-579 "Cap" Urban Connector Project: Bridging a Critical Gap to Revitalize the Hill District


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Project Sponsor / Borrower

City of Pittsburgh
Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County

Program Areas

Project FinanceValue Capture

Value Capture Techniques

Private Contribution
Right-of-Way Use Agreements


Pedestrian / Bicycle / Light Rail Transit


The I-579 “Cap” Urban Connector Project will reconnect a disadvantaged community (Hill District) to centers of employment, education and services (Downtown Pittsburgh) via the construction of a Cap structure that spans the below grade I-579 interstate highway. The 3-acre Cap is a “ladders of opportunity” project for the economically disadvantaged Hill District community.

The Cap provides a new open space and replaces what has been a barrier between the two communities with a new connector in the urban core of Pittsburgh and includes safe and accessible bicycle and pedestrian pathways and facilities over and around its perimeter, providing a better connection for people dependent on walking or biking between the Hill District and Downtown. Improved facilities for the disabled are also a part of this project.

The I-579 Cap Urban Connector Project will add a new “cap” structure over a portion below grade of I-579 Crosstown Boulevard in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It will improve the adjacent intersection and underutilized vacant land parcels. It will be bound by Washington Place, Centre Avenue, Chatham Street, Bigelow Boulevard, and land to the north of Bigelow Boulevard.

The project site includes air space above the I-579 highway and adjoining land parcels. It is located near the proposed bus rapid transit (BRT) system, which will connect the City with its Oakland suburb. The cap will be approximately 52,800 square feet of pre-stressed concrete adjacent box beams. The bridge deck will be an eight-inch thick reinforced concrete slab composite with the beams. The live loading on the structure will be a full pedestrian load. The cap will span across I-579 west to east with a combination of a two-span structure (adjacent to the Centre Avenue Bridge on the southern limit) and a three-span structure (adjacent to the Bigelow Boulevard Bridge at the northern limit).

The surface of the cap will provide three acres of open space with pedestrian pathways and bicycle paths. It will improve nearby connecting intersections, plus provide recreation and performance areas, rain gardens, and other public amenities designed by local artists.

By upgrading sidewalks, crosswalks, lighting, landscaping, and rest areas, along with incorporating new pedestrian and bicycle signage, the project is expected to enhance safety for the public. The Cap will create safe and accessible routes for walking and biking between the Hill District and the City, including connections to the free fare Downtown/North Shore subway. The cap will offer improved links to public transportation, including a new bus stop on Centre Avenue at the cap site, and a bike-sharing station. It will also improve safety at the Chatham Street and Bigelow Boulevard intersection. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant curb-cut ramps and crosswalks will be constructed with associated signs, audible/count-down pedestrian signals, and pavement markings. New ADA compliant walkways leading to the intersection also will be constructed.

Contributing to the City’s Clean Diesel Emission requirements, the project will add trench drains to help catch storm water and redirect it into rain gardens or back into the public drain system.

$32 million ($20 million from FY2016 TIGER Discretionary Grant (TIGER VIII) funding, and $12 million from state, local and private funding, as well as a land match).

Funding Sources
  • US Department of Transportation through FHWA (TIGER VIII)
  • PA Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program
  • PA Department of Transportation (Multimodal PennDOT)
  • PA Commonwealth Financing Authority (Multimodal DCED)
  • PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund)
  • Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN)
  • Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County
  • Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh
  • Richard K Mellon Foundation
  • Hillman Foundation
  • Heinz Endowments
  • Colcom Foundation
Project Delivery / Contract Method

Design-Bid-Build, The Joseph B. Fay Company is the prime contractor
HDR Engineering (HDR) is the designer / engineer for the project. Sub-consultants include A&A; American Geotechnical & Environmental Services; Cardno TBE; Christine Davis Consultants; Collective Efforts; LaQuatra Bonci and Associates; Monaloh Basin Engineers; and Santangelo & Lindsay.

Private Partner
  • Pittsburgh Sports and Exhibition Authority
  • PennDOT
Project Advisors / Consultants
  • HDR Engineering
  • A&A
  • American Geotechnical and Environmental Services
  • Cardno TBE
  • Christine Davis Consultants
  • Collective Efforts
  • LaQuatra Bonci and Associates
  • Monaloh Basin Engineers
  • Santangelo and Lindsay
  • Michael Baker International
  • SAI Consulting Engineers


Duration / Status

Construction for the project began in 2019 with scheduled completion in 2021.

Financial Status / Financial Performance

Construction completion is anticipated for November 2021

  • Restores and improves connections between the low-income Hill District and the city’s central business district
  • Promotes pedestrian safety by providing improved sidewalks, crosswalks and lighting in an area with high crash rates
  • Innovative funding from dozen agencies as matching share for Federal Grant.
  • The project will include story walls, wayfinding signage, art pylons, colored paving, an outdoor classroom garden, and a water course for storm water management.
  • The cap will utilize green infrastructure strategies, including capturing and retaining storm water on the site, plus adding energy-efficient lighting. Repurposed materials will be used to minimize the carbon footprint.
  • The cap will create convenient and accessible pedestrian and bicycle pathways that will connect to a transit and free subway system in the City.
  • The cap will reduce the urban heat island effect created by the concrete surface of I-579 and will mitigate noise along the pedestrian/bike corridor between the Hill District and the City.
Related Links / Articles

Facilities Director

Map view of I-579 Cap Urban Connector Project.

The I-579 Cap Urban Connector Project (also known as the Cap Project) will consist of the construction of a new “cap” park structure spanning over a portion of I-579. The Cap Project is bounded by Washington Place, Centre Avenue, Chatham Street, Bigelow Boulevard and land to the north of Bigelow Boulevard
Source: Credit to Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

Map view of I-579 Cap Urban Connector Project-Interstate 579.
I-579 Cap Urban Connector Project-Interstate 579 separates the Pittsburgh central business district to the west with the historic Hill District to the east
Source: Credit to the Interstate-Guide

Design view

The final design, a design review and community process was undertaken to obtain input from residents of the Hill District and other stakeholders regarding the details of design of the 3-acre public urban open space that will make up the surface of the “cap.”
Source: Credit to the Interstate-Guide

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