Mon Wharf Switchback earns ‘Outstanding Highway Engineering’ award | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Mon Wharf Switchback earns ‘Outstanding Highway Engineering’ award

click to enlarge Mon Wharf Switchback - CP PHOTO: RYAN DETO
CP photo: Ryan Deto
Mon Wharf Switchback
Pittsburghers are no strangers to the downsides of hills and steep slopes, but a recently constructed slope in Downtown is actually a cause for celebration.

The Mon Wharf Switchback has won the American Society of Highway Engineers award for “Outstanding Highway Engineering.” (A "switchback" is a ramp designed with 180° turns to navigate terrains with steep grades.) Each year, the award is given in recognition of ASHE members' outstanding contributions in the field of transportation.

The $3.28 million project broke ground in 2017. Several agencies, including RiverLife, City of Pittsburgh Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, and SAI Consulting Engineers, collaborated on the project with support from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PennDOT, and the Department of Environmental Protection, among others. The ramp is pedestrian-friendly, ADA accessible, and fully lit at night.


The switchback connects the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), the Smithfield Street Bridge, and the Three Rivers Heritage Trail to the Mon Wharf Landing. Prior to the ramp’s completion in 2018, travelers of the GAP trail, which runs from Washington, D.C. through Southwestern Pennsylvania and finishes at Point State Park, would have to traverse several Downtown streets, many that lack any bike infrastructure. The ramp now routes individuals around Downtown car traffic and connects them directly to the Monongahela riverfront.

Local officials believe the ramp has helped with navigating Downtown and will increase tourism over time. The project is part of a larger effort to make the Pittsburgh riverfront more accessible.

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