(October 2013 - July 2014)
The sequence of photos below shows the progress of the Brookline Boulevard reconstruction project from October 2013 through July 2014 and the end of the long journey.
Click on images for larger pictures
Introduction October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 A Long, Hard Winter
Ten Months And A Wake-Up
From October until December 2013, the Facchiano Construction crews worked quickly to finish the majority of the curbs, pavement, landscaping and infrastructure along the Boulevard. By the onset of winter, most of the new poles and streetlights had been installed. New street signage, crosswalks and other improvements could be seen up and down the length of the boulevard.
When construction came to a halt during the Christmas season, the transformation of Brookline Boulevard had come quite a long way. However, the vast number of improvements were overshadowed by the roadway itself. After years of neglect, the street surface was beginning to resemble the lunar landscape.
A long and arduous winter was in store for the merchants, whose businesses anchor the popular commercial district along the boulevard. The decline in sales due to the construction disruption was taking its toll and some were forced to alter their scheduling accordingly.
Not only the business owners suffered. Motorists and pedestrians were beginning to feel the frustration. The emergence of numerous large potholes caused dangerous driving conditions. Patience became an uncommon virtue among those that braved the treacherous route through the heart of town. Many people avoided the boulevard altogether.
Here Comes The Sun
The sunshine and warmth of springtime brought renewed hope to the community as a whole. The city Public Works teams started patching the potholes with real asphalt rather than cold patch and, in April, the Facchiano Construction crews returned to Brookline to finish their work.
In early May, Brookliners were delightfully surprised when Folino Construction, in a separate project, milled and paved the lower end of Brookline Boulevard, from Starkamp Avenue to Birchland Street. Like instant kharma, things began getting better all the time.
Along the commercial district, tradesmen made quick thrift of the remaining sidewalks. Soon all of the utilities were in place and in working order. By mid-June, sixteen months since the jackhammer first hit the pavement, the boulevard project had at last reached the final stages.
Then, on June 26, 2014, Lindy Paving arrived on Brookline Boulevard to begin the process of milling the old asphalt surface down to the brick base. Exposed for the first time in almost fifty years were the vintage paving bricks and the rusting streetcar tracks that once cut a path down the center of the roadway.
Once the street surface was prepped, Lindy Paving crews went to work. A constant flow of trucks loaded with hot asphalt lined the boulevard. It was the beginning of the end. The fresh coat of black top was the tonic that the long-suffering residents of Brookline had been yearning for.
The majority of the paving was done at night to minimize the disruption to traffic. By June 28 the first coating had been laid along the center of the boulevard. Four days later the entire roadway was covered in a base coat, providing a smooth driving surface to local residents for the first time in over twenty years.
By mid-July the smooth top coat was laid, effectively bringing the project to a close. The permanent traffic, directional and parking lines were painted on July 22. Two days later city officials and special guests gathered at Veteran's Memorial Park for the ceremonial dedication, bringing an official end to the Brookline Boulevard Reconstruction Project.
Brookline finally has it's new boulevard, and what a wonderful main street it is. For residents and merchants, what was once impatience and angst over the interminable delays has turned to joy. There are many excellent modern amenities, and everything is new.
The $5.35 million metamorphosis has spurred several business owners to upgrade their locations and storefronts. The 104-year old firehouse is also undergoing renovations. The revitalization has brought a new energy to the community and will serve as a catalyst in bringing new businesses and homebuyers to the neighborhood. It's a great time to live in Brookline!
And, on a final note, the completion of the project couldn't have come at a better time for local fitness enthusiasts. On August 9, the annual Brookline Breeze 5K Fitness Run/Walk will have hundreds of participants moving along the new boulevard, enjoying the smooth running surface and marveling at all of the new features.
The transition to Fall weather brought with it a sense of urgency to the project. The planned timeline was still lagging far behind and it became obvious that the job was not going to be completed during one construction season. With a sense of quiet resignation, Brookline residents and merchants accepted the announcement of a new completion date, the Spring of 2014.
While this bitter news sank in, Facchiano crews worked diligently to get on with the task at hand. With minor exceptions, the 700 block of the business side of the boulevard was nearing completion. The extended driveway and curb bump outs were built in front of the 106-year old Brookline firehouse.
Work at the intersection of Pioneer Avenue was moving along, and the new sidewalk now extended all the way to Wedgemere Avenue. A half mile away, crews were beginning to work on the walkway from Starkamp Avenue to Glenarm Avenue. Another crew began the job of clearing the old sidewalk from Flatbush Avenue to Castlegate Avenue.
Brookline's Triangle Park, home of the Veteran's Memorial, was now mostly finished, except for the landscaping around the island.
The month of November was spent finishing up the zones presently under construction. By the end of the month the majority of the boulevard sidewalks had been completed. Only the stretch from Flatbush Avenue to Glenarm on the residential side, and the area near the United Presbyterian Church along Queensboro Avenue, had yet to be started.
The majority of the new utility poles along the boulevard were put in place, with lights and signage attached. The huge, black poles stood in stark contrast to the old green poles, many of which were still in place holding the existing traffic lights as the new signals had yet to be activated.
Some of the landscaping was also put in place, limited to plants and shrubs hearty enough to withstand the coming winter months. This left the planters looking rather scantily adorned. Brookline would have to wait for spring to see the full extent of the beautification process.
Winter weather was rapidly approaching, and Facchiano crews spent the month of December tidying up before the end of the construction season. Some preparatory work was done at the corner of Queensboro Avenue in front of the United Presbyterian Church. But, aside from that, the project had come to a halt.
By the end of the month, most of the vehicles, fencing and other signs of the construction process had been removed. The results of the project to date had been quite impressive.
However, with the roadway still in a state of disrepair and the forecast calling for a bitter winter, it was difficult for Brookliners to revel in the luster of their new sidewalks and utility poles. Resigned to their fate, the community settled in for the coming of the deep freeze.
A Long, Hard Winter
One thing that had been a persistent problem over the years with Brookline Boulevard was potholes. The roadway had not seen any significant improvements since 1966, and the results showed. For the past decade, the road surface had been gradually deteriorating.
To make matters worse, with an eye on the upcoming reconstruction of the boulevard, the city Public Works Department put a low priority on Brookline Boulevard while focusing it's resources on other roadways. That policy, along with a harsh winter, was a combination for disaster.
After the Facchiano crews packed up for the year, winter came along with a powerful punch and turned Brookline Boulevard into a lunar landscape. The constant freeze and thaw cycle, accompanied by abundant coatings of erosive rock salt stressed the aging asphalt to its limit.
Massive potholes appeared all along the boulevard, in some places so numerous that they could not be avoided by even the most skilled drivers. These strut-busters caused havoc amongst motorists and pedestrians alike, and pushed the patience of the local citizenry to the red zone.
If there was a time during the entire 17-month project that could be considered a low point, this was it. Even the most enthusiastic supporters were beginning to feel the burden. Brookliners fell into a wintry pothole of despair, and it seemed nothing short of a miracle could save the day.
Among the many notable neck-jarring, tire-bursting holes that formed along the boulevard, two were discovered that were notable not just for their size, but for the historical significance of what they uncovered.
The two potholes shown above may qualify for the top spots in the 2014 Most Notable Pothole competition. The one on the left was near the cannon, and shows the old red paving bricks and streetcar track. The one to the right was found near the intersection of Brookline Boulevard and Pioneer Avenue, and shows the old Belgian Block that formed the driving surface many years ago.
Then came the spring, and with the warmer weather came a sense of renewed hope. The long, hard winter had ended and the city's "Pothole Blitz" brought some measure of relief. The return of the Facchiano Construction was also a sign that times were changing for the better.
Facchiano Construction returned to Brookline Boulevard in the Spring of 2014 and set about finishing the task they started back in February 2013. Most of the old utility poles were removed and the crews worked quickly to finish off the pavement along Queensboro Avenue and the final stretch of residential sidewalk between Glenarm Avenue and Flatbush Avenue.
The Public Works Department did its best to bring the road surface back to a slightly respectable state and everyone relished in the thought that the construction project was heading into the home stretch.
In a separate endeavor, Folino Construction came to Brookline and added their contribution to the renovation of Brookline Boulevard by paving the lower end of the roadway, from Starkamp Avenue all the way to Birchland Street and the Brookline Park entrance.
While Folino put a new coat of black top on that section of the boulevard, Facchiano put the finishing touches on the commercial district. By the time of the annual Memorial Day Parade, their work was almost complete. All of the sidewalks and infrastructure improvements were finished, all the new street lights had been installed and the new traffic signals were activated.
All of the vestiges of the old boulevard had now been removed or refurbished. Many of the storefronts themselves were also sporting a new look after their own renovations. The only thing left to do was to mill and pave the street. The project had reached its climax, and everyone was eager to see the first signs of the arrival of the paving equipment.
Originally, the paving work was set to begin in mid-May, but once again the project engineers ran into unforeseen problems that led to additional delays.
When the reconstruction plans were first submitted over a decade ago, the old streetcar tracks that ran down the center of the boulevard were scheduled to be removed, as they were during the West Liberty Avenue reconstruction project in 2011. As the years went by and the amount of available funding was reduced, these ambitious plans had to be altered.
It was decided that the original road base, consisting of the paving bricks and streetcar tracks, would be left in place. This decision was not taken lightly, as it has been well documented throughout the city that streets with old tracks underneath tend to crack along the path of the rails, reducing the estimated life of the roadway itself.
With this in mind, Facchiano turned to TenCate Geosynthetics, a Georgia firm that produces a mesh sheet called Miralfi APV. Two coatings of the overlay fabric would be laid along the center of the boulevard over the tracks, in between alternating layers of asphalt.
The Miralfi APV product is designed to delay or prevent the sort of reflective cracking that often is associated with asphalt laid over old streetcar tracks by providing a barrier to keep surface water from entering the subase.
Another problem that arose was the grade of the subase layer, which was not always consistent with the planned grading of the roadway. Engineers and surveyors made a quick inspection of the boulevard and determined that the paving could go on as planned. There were a couple of sewers that needed to be adjusted to remain flush with surface of the grade level.
By the end of June, all of the pending issues had been worked out and it was time to strip the street down to the base. Lindy Paving began the milling process. In two days, approximately six to eight inches of aging asphalt was removed from the boulevard, exposing the old roadway and streetcar tracks that had been buried since 1966.
On Saturday, June 28, the Miralfi product and a base coat of asphalt had been laid down the center of the boulevard, providing motorists with two lanes of smooth driving, something they had not experienced in over twenty years.
Lindy Paving returned on July 1 to finish laying the base coat. The paving crews worked during the evening hours, from 9pm to 6am, to reduce the disruption to vehicular traffic. Two days later, the entire boulevard was covered in a fresh, smooth coat of black top.
On July 4, 2014, Brookliners were delighted to see the completed boulevard. The timing of the completion of the paving was quite ironic for local residents.
Not only was it the country's Day of Independence, it was also a glorious day that signified the community's long-awaited independence from seventeen months of trials and tribulations associated with the boulevard reconstruction project itself.
One can not adequately describe how nice it was to take a drive along the boulevard and not have to worry about whether a tire would burst or a strut would break. With a sense of incredible relief, Brookliners could now relax and admire the look of their new boulevard.
The New Brookline Boulevard
The following pictures were taken on July 20, 2014, almost seventeen months since the start of the boulevard reconstruction project. The permanent street lines would be put down in a matter of days, marking the end of the long and arduous effort to transform Brookline Boulevard into a modern urban throughway.
The results, although not perfect in the minds of many, are quite astonishing in their own right. From February 2013 to July 2014, residents and merchants watched the transformation of Brookline Boulevard from a main street of the 1980s into the model main street of today.
The seventeen month project included laying 4,800 tons of asphalt; building 8,400 square yards of sidewalk, including 1,400 square yards of decorative exposed aggregate; twenty-seven traffic signal supports; installation of a traffic signal system; erecting forty-eight ornamental light poles; new trash receptacles; 23 benches; eight bicycle racks; 175 feet of stainless steel railing; and planting fifty-five trees, including nineteen Brandywine Red Maples, seventeen Accolade Elms, ten Spring Snow Crab Apples and nine Japanese Lilacs; along with a total of 950 plants and shrubs.
Some folks were unhappy with the curb bump outs, the parking lane and the black utility poles. Others foundnd the landscaping inadequate, the parking meters a challenge, and lamented the loss of a few parking spaces. But, all things considered, Brookline Boulevard looks better than ever!
With a renewed sense of pride, Brookliners can now set upon the task of completing this urban renewal effort. The boulevard is once again the hub around which the community will grow and prosper. It is bound to prompt additional business and investment opportunities, and the neighborhood now has a sparkling attraction to inspire homebuyers to settle in Brookline.
This is a great time to live here in Brookline. It's now time for Brookliners to come together and do their part to help keep this the best and brightest community in the City of Pittsburgh.
Dedication Day - July 24, 2014
The lines were painted onto the boulevard during the morning of July 22. The white and yellow street markings really stood out brightly on the new asphalt. Two days later the day had come for the official dedication of the new Brookline Boulevard.
Among the many elected officials and city digitaries on hand were Mayor Bill Peduto, State Representative Erin Molchany, District 4 Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, Chief of Operations Guy Costa, Public Works Director Mike Gable and City Engineer Pat Hassett. They were joined by executives from Facchiano Construction and Baker Corporation.
Also on hand were several members of the South Pittsburgh Development Corporation (SPDC), a community action group that was involved in project planning from the beginning, back in 1999. Special thanks went to Lois McCafferty, who acted as community liaison with the project coordinators.
After the brief ceremony at the Boulevard Triangle Park, Father Frank Mitolo from the Church of the Resurrection gave blessing to Brookline's new main street. Amen.
Some Things Never Change
No matter where you go on the job, scenes like these from Brookline are commonplace in construction zones. Lunch break is a time to sit back and enjoy a good meal, whether it's a sandwich from the local deli or packed at home, brought along with a thermos. This time-honored practice has been in place for centuries.
Here's an excellent example. The group of workers on the left, from Facchiano Construction, have gathered along the wall near Pioneer Avenue and are taking a noontime breather. The picture was taken in the Fall of 2013.
The picture to the right shows a group of tradesmen employed by Booth and Flinn, Ltd., gathered along a log eating their lunch. These men are working on the reconstruction of West Liberty Avenue in 1915. They are sitting near the lower end of Pioneer Avenue, only a short mile from the present-day workers shown on the left. Some things never change.
<><><><> <><><><> <><><><> <><><><> <><><><> <><><><>
At the turn of the century, when dirt streets like Brookline Boulevard and West Liberty Avenue were first being paved, belgian block was a popular choice for the road surface.
The custom of using setts began back in the old country, and migrated to America along with many skilled craftsmen. These workers were kept busy chiseling the stones by hand and laying them out individually to form the modern roadways.
Pictured below to the right are craftsmen creating the rectangular blocks from the large granite slabs and tossing them into a pile to be used in paving the intersection of West Liberty Avenue and Cape May Avenue in 1915.
During the boulevard reconstruction project, some of the belgian block had to be removed from Flatbush Avenue to install a new utility line. Afterwards, tradesmen with some experience in the old school ways were called upon to relay the stones by hand to help preserve the vintage belgian block street. Some things never change.
<><><><> <><><><> <><><><> <><><><> <><><><> <><><><>
Back in 1915, when West Liberty Avenue was renovated into a modern four-lane roadway, Booth and Flinn employed giant Marion steam shovels to carve out trenches for the new sewer lines. Nothing could rival the power of the big shovels, and they helped reshape the landscape of that major South Hills thoroughfare.
Today, large Caterpillar excavators and front end loaders perform the same tasks as the Marion steam shovels. It's hard to imagine the Facchiano Construction crews, like the Booth and Flinn crews a century before, performing their work without employing such equipment.
However, no matter how big and powerful the vehicles and machinery employed over the last century in the construction business, it still comes down to the individual man and his shovel to make it all work. It's been that way since the days of antiquity. Some things never change.
<><><><> <><><><> <><><><> <><><><> <><><><> <><><><>
And finally, one last comparison to 1915. For those who shopped along the boulevard during the construction period, having to walk the plank became a necessity in order to get from the roadway to the business entrance. These wooden bridges spanned the trenches dug to replace the sewer lines, curbs and sidewalks.
The photo to the right shows West Liberty Avenue, looking north towards the intersection with Pioneer Avenue, which rises along the hillside in the background. During construction of the sewer lines, wooden bridges were put in place to span the gap and provide a walkway for residents to get from the roadway to the front door of their home.
So much has changed over the past century, but there are some things that will never change.
<><><><> <><><><> <><><><> <><><><> <><><><> <><><><>
Original Diagrams For The Reconstruction Project
These are some of the original drawings that were presented to the Brookline Area Community Council in 2001. At the time, there was $10 million allotted to the project. With these additional funds, the streetcar tracks were to be removed and a new road bed built.
There were also other amenities, like decorative brick crosswalks and a gazebo at Pioneer Avenue. Over the years, some of that money was siphoned off to be used elsewhere, By 2012, the adjusted plans called for a more utilitarian approach. The results were still quite stunning.
<Brookline Boulevard> <> <Building Brookline> <> <Brookline History>