Public safety, in particular traffic along Grandview Avenue, was an emotional issue for Mount Washington residents at the July community forum of the Mount Washington Community Development Corp.

District 2 Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith opened the discussion by saying she has had complaints about the traffic and has arranged a meeting with the Traffic 21 Institute at Carnegie Mellon Institute. She hopes to possibly arrange for the group to do a comprehensive study and offer suggestions to remedy the problems.

According to its website, The Traffic 21 Institute is “a multi-disciplinary research institute of Carnegie Mellon University. Its goal is to design, test, deploy and evaluate information and communications technology-based solutions to address the problems facing the transportation system of the Pittsburgh region.”

In addition to Ms. Kail-Smith, other city officials joining the discussion included Lt. Larry Scirotto, acting commander of Zone 3 police station; Liz Style, Safer Together coordinator; Sally Stadelman, community liaison from the Office of Community Affairs; and Amanda Broadwater, traffic engineer.

Lt. Scirotto, a resident of Mount Washington, said he handles the majority of quality of life issues in the neighborhoods.

“I understand some of the concerns a little more intimately (as a resident), not that they take priority over the other 15 neighborhoods,” he said. “But, I understand because I see it on a daily basis.”

From previous conversations, he said he knew there were concerns with motorcycles on Grandview Avenue along with an increase in visitor vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Residential traffic hasn’t been much of a problem.

“We live up here so we know the ebb and flow of how Grandview works, but we’ve been getting an influx of visitors up here due to the popularity of the city,” he said.

He said there have been two locations on the west side of Grandview Avenue identified as problems by residents and possible locations for stop signs. With the help of Traffic 21, they may be able to come up with a comprehensive plan on how to approach traffic control in the area.

On the west side of Grandview Avenue, there is only a traffic light at McArdle Roadway and a stop sign at Shiloh Street.

“With all the traffic influx we’ve been getting over the last year or two, there’s no traffic signal that slows that down,” Lt. Scirotto continued.

Ms. Broadwater noted the city doesn’t generally place stop signs for traffic control. They would have to take a look at the intersections and the flow of traffic and determine if there is another reason to put up a stop sign.

“State code dictates the rules on how and where we put up a stop sign,” she added.

An area resident challenged her on the rule saying they were able to get a stop sign at the corner of Bigham and Grandview after she told them the same thing several years ago. Public Work Director Rob Kaczorowski overruled the decision and placed the sign.

“I don’t think we need a CMU study,” he said. “It’s a pretty simple situation: We need some control, we need some officer’s presence, we need to stop the speeding – particularly the motorcycles.”

Ms. Kail-Smith replied the stop sign at Bigham was placed due to safety issues after an accident at the intersection and there was a reason to substantiate his decision to reverse the traffic engineer’s recommendation.

“No director is going to be in the habit of overriding the engineer who understands these codes and knows these codes, unless there is a public safety concern that they’re aware of.”

The councilwoman added she wants Traffic 21 to come up and do the study because there maybe something “out of the box” they are doing in other parts of the country that are not being done here.

Concerns were expressed the study would just “count cars” and that wouldn’t tell the whole story on Grandview. It was recommended, and Ms. Kail-Smith agreed, any study should include pedestrian traffic along the avenue.

Another resident complained she “almost gets killed every morning walking to the incline” by people speeding, running stop signs and failing to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. Without a greater police presence, she didn’t think anything would change.

Lt. Scirotto said if it was the will of the group, he could direct a “quality of life” patrol to focus on Grandview Avenue for two weeks to set the tone for future enforcement. He recommended those in attendance pass the information on to their residents up there because “the enforcement will not be selective, it will be an enforcement method on the entire block.”

Loud motorcycles were a problem for a woman and her neighbors who live near the intersection of Grandview and McArdle Roadway. She complained the riders gather late in the evening and in the early morning hours at the intersection revving their engines and racing down McArdle.

She asked a police officer be stationed at the corner from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m. to stop the gathering of motorcycles and to monitor the level of the noise they are making.

“The revving of the engines in ungodly when it’s right outside your bedroom window,” she said.

Ms. Kail-Smith said she has been working on a noise ordinance with Councilman Bruce Kraus and others to give police the ordinance and tools to limit noise. She expects Councilman Kraus to be making an announcement soon on the ordinance.

“We’ve been working on it for almost two years,” she said.

The resident quipped it would “make so much money for Mount Washington” if they were able to enforce a noise ordinance in the area.

“It’s never supposed to be a revenue resource,” Lt. Scirotto said. The current noise ordinance in place for the last two years only covers music coming from a venue while the new ordinance will cover much more.

He said he couldn’t station a police officer at the corner for six hours a night, but he could direct the quality of life patrol to extend their coverage down to McArdle and beyond.

A Bertha Street resident joined in the complaint saying she can hear the motorcycles at her house, too. She has brought the complaints to the Zone 3 Public Safety Council three months ago, but “didn’t have enough pull” to get anything done about them.

“What do we do on Friday and Saturday and Sunday nights when all the officers are in South Side,” she asked. “What do we do about then?” That’s a big problem up here.”

“For the most part, we remedied that particular issue because we have employed a policing strategy for the South Side that hires overtime officers to address the South Side. Part of that was the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association and the RHI initiative freeing more of our patrol officers to go back into the districts where they belong.”

Currently, there are two cars assigned to Mount Washington and Duquesne Heights.

“Now keeping them up here is the task and it’s something we are working on changing to ensure that they stay here more often than they are pulled for other issues in the zone. And that’s a 911 issue that is not your concern, that’s our concern and we have to figure out a better way at it,” he said.

To show things are actually getting better in Mount Washington, he explained last year response times for calls was 14 minutes, this year the response time is down to three minutes.

The police lieutenant was criticized for the pace of the changes in enforcement by one resident. She said changes were promised months ago that haven’t happened yet and now the new enforcement effort was still weeks away.

Lt. Scirotto replied some things take time to prepare; they were just able to get lines painted that were needed for enforcement. The delay in starting the quality of life patrols is caused by the timing of changes in officers’ schedules.

“Everybody goes, ‘we want it done.’ Well, we have to do it so it’s stable. We have to do it so it has a lasting effort. We have to do it so it actually works,” he said.

“If we don’t have an approach on how we’re going to do it and just put officers up there, it’s pointless. It will not obtain the desired results. I will never do anything for expediency to appease a specific individual, a house, a block. I do things so it works and it’s sustainable.

“And when it’s sustainable, then we see the change holistically verses seeing the change for the immediate moment. And that’s my job, and until I feel comfortable of doing my job in an appropriate manner where I can come back with results that I am proud of and the efforts of the officers then I won’t do it just to do it.”

He said in a month at the next meeting, they can come back and discuss the enforcement strategy.

The next meeting of the Mount Washington CDC will take place on Thursday, Aug. 21, at 7 p.m. at the Mount Washington Senior Center on Virginia Avenue.

Tom Smith is the former Managing Editor of the South Pittsburgh Reporter from 2000 until 2023. Following in his mother's footsteps, he delivered news that changed our world.