Yes, Bigelow is closing, but there’s no reason to panic, officials say


The busiest block of Bigelow Boulevard, between the William Pitt Union and the Cathedral of Learning, is closing Nov. 1 until August 2020 — and you’ll be fine.

That’s the message the University administration really wants you to understand.

At the Oct. 21 meeting of Senate Council’s Plant Utilization and Planning Committee, Kevin Sheehy, assistant vice chancellor of Auxiliary Operations and Finance, said, “You're going to have traffic. Everybody’s so used to making their turn there. Just go up an extra block, make the turn there.”

Scott Bernotas, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management, said the redesigned street “will provide a better, safer pedestrian experience including expanded sidewalks and crosswalk lanes, a new mid-block pedestrian crosswalk, new green spaces, improved accessibility between the William Pitt Union and Schenley Quadrangle, plus a flexible new space for student activities and programming outside the William Pitt Union.”

The total cost of the project, including utility upgrades, streetscaping, landscaping and all of the work on the William Pitt Union grounds, is $23.7 million. Project funding is provided by the Pitt  general budget and a $1 million grant from the state.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • You’ll still be able to cross on the Fifth and Forbes avenue ends of the street — you won’t be forced across the avenues.
  • Look for shuttle stops to be moved. The southbound shuttle stop will be at Schenley Drive in front of Hillman Library, while the northbound shuttle stop will be at Forbes Avenue in front of Schenley Plaza, where the here the panel trucks used by the Pitt Stop vendor frequently park now. Accessibility shuttle stops will be at the curb cuts in each location: Schenley Drive at the Hillman/Posvar Hall crosswalk and Forbes Avenue at Schenley Drive Extension. Find more details here.
  • From mid-December 2019 through mid-June 2020, the Union grounds will be closed as part of the project. From mid-June 2020 through mid-August 2020, closures may include sidewalks along Fifth and Forbes avenues.
  • Those deep trenches you’ll see being dug under the street are for replacement or improvements of water lines, chilled water supply and electrical power lines — not for an underground tunnel between the Union and the Cathedral of Learning. (A pedestrian overpass also was rejected as a solution for crossing Bigelow, according to the University.)  
  • In order to put in the new infrastructure and not dig up Fifth or Forbes Avenues, large pits will need to be drilled on University Avenue, upper Bigelow Boulevard (above Fifth Avenue) and Schenley Avenue Extension to tunnel under the main roads. The two 40-foot-deep pits north of Fifth Avenue will be dug up at the same time, starting in early November. Drivers will not be able to turn from Fifth Avenue onto Bigelow for two weeks. On University Avenue, vehicles will be able to come from O’Hara down to the Soldiers & Sailors permit-only entrance but will not be able to get to Fifth Avenue. This closure will last for an extended period.

At the Oct. 16 Senate Council meeting, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher offered his assurance: “As you suffer through the months of disruption, remember how beautiful it’s going to be.”

Get updates about the project on the Facilities Management website. Major updates also will be shared will be shared through major University channels and via the Oakland Transportation Management Association website and newsletter.

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-758-4859.


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