Market Square
Photo by Jennifer Baron

If you’ve ever wandered through Pittsburgh’s confusing street grids wondering if you were headed the right way — and who hasn’t? — new signs and maps coming in 2022 will help.

The city will receive a $1.4 million grant from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission to establish a pedestrian wayfinding system that highlights landmarks and makes it easier to navigate four key business districts: Downtown, Oakland, the North Side and the North Shore.

James Hill, a spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto, says the system may expand to other neighborhoods in later phases.

“If you’re from out of town, or in some cases in town, it can be very hard to navigate Pittsburgh’s streets, particularly if you’re a pedestrian,” says Hill. “In Downtown, for example, we have two street grids that run parallel to each other. One side is numbered streets, and one side is numbered avenues, and they don’t line up.”

The grant funds will cover the cost of kiosks and signage, with maps, that will be placed sporadically on sidewalks, Hill says. Some will be installed into sidewalks that are wide enough, and some will be fastened onto existing street poles. Directional signs will have their own freestanding poles that point people to a landmark or major building, with an arrow and mileage notation.

Sites that will be highlighted include attractions such as museums, libraries, hospitals and other major buildings. The funding will come through a reimbursement agreement with PennDOT.

Now fully designed, the Pittsburgh Pedestrian Wayfinding Project will include more than 50 kiosks and 110 directional signs. It is scheduled to be put out to bid in summer 2022 and installation should begin in the fall, Hill says.

Peduto considers the project a solution to help people find their way around the city, given Pittsburgh’s unique topography, bridges and rivers.

The pedestrian wayfinding project is the brainchild of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Hill says, in collaboration with the Oakland Business Improvement District, Oakland Transportation Management Association, Walk Ride Northside, Northside Cultural Collaborative, University of Pittsburgh and UPMC.

“Very early in the mayor’s term it was a desire driven by the Downtown Partnership that the mayor was supportive of — how do you want Downtown to be experienced by visitors and guests?” says Hill. “It’s convenient to have a place to look that tells you where you are and where you want to go. … If you’re from out of town, we just want to provide a way to highlight every great attraction our neighborhoods have to offer.”

During its development, the project involved gathering ideas from thousands of residents and stakeholders. More than $700,000 in private money was raised to create the design and engage the community. The process included workshops, presentations, site visits and art commission reviews.

Sandra Tolliver

Sandra Tolliver is a freelance writer, editor and public relations professional in Upper St. Clair.