Restoring the Beauty of Allegheny River Boulevard
April 24, 2024

In the heart of southwest Pennsylvania, nestled along the picturesque Allegheny River between Pittsburgh and Oakmont, lies an old road of great historical and cultural significance. Built in the 1930s as a way for city-dwellers to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and take in the Allegheny River’s scenic beauty, the once vibrant Allegheny River Boulevard has since succumbed to neglect and decay over its 90 years of life and use. However, hope is on the horizon as a new initiative seeks to revitalize and restore the former glory of the six-mile scenic route.

The Allegheny River Boulevard under construction in 1931. Image credit: Rick Duncan, Allegheny River Boulevard Preservation Association

The Allegheny River Boulevard has long been cherished by locals and visitors alike for its scenic vistas and its role in connecting neighborhoods and communities in and around Pittsburgh. Yet, years of wear and tear, compounded by insufficient maintenance and a lack of funding, have taken their toll on this beloved road. Listed as a “Pennsylvania at Risk” property, the road was named by Scenic America as one of America’s 10 Most Endangered Scenic Byways in 1994. Crumbling infrastructure, overgrown vegetation, and neglected amenities have marred the once-stunning landscape, diminishing both its aesthetic appeal and its functionality.

Recognizing the importance of preserving this cultural gem, community leaders, activists, and lawmakers, led by Scenic Pittsburgh and partner Rick Duncan, chairman of the Allegheny River Boulevard Preservation Association, have come together to spearhead efforts to breathe new life into the scenic and historic byway.

HB2161, sponsored by Rep. Joe McAndrew (PA-32), was recently introduced in Harrisburg to officially designate the Allegheny River Boulevard as a scenic byway, establishing measures to officially protect and preserve the road for future generations.

Years of neglect has rendered the historical turnouts along the Allegheny River Boulevard non-functional and inaccessible. Image credit: Rick Duncan, Allegheny River Boulevard Preservation Association

“This is an opportunity to build a region to allow us to have the scenic views restored for this space that will have thousands of people traveling to the U.S. Open [golf tournament to be held in Oakmont] next year and to other events in the future,” said Rep. McAndrew in an address on the floor of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

The measure passed through the House on Wednesday, April 17, and awaits a vote in the Senate. If signed into law, HB2161 will open the door for much-needed funding to support improvements including infrastructure repairs, landscaping enhancements, and the installation of amenities to enhance the visitor experience.

A view of the Allegheny River from along the Allegheny River Boulevard. Image credit: Rick Duncan, Allegheny River Boulevard Preservation Association

“The Allegheny River Boulevard Scenic Byway will not only showcase the rich history and natural beauty of the Pittsburgh region, but it also serves as a valuable economic driver,” said Mike Dawida, executive director of Scenic Pittsburgh. “The preservation and enhancement of this scenic route can lead to long-term economic benefits for these communities through increased tourism and recreation opportunities.”

One of the primary goals of the project is to make the Allegheny River Boulevard more accessible and inviting to pedestrians and cyclists. Plans include the restoration of the road’s 90-year-old trademark stone turn-offs, creation of designated walking and biking paths, as well as the addition of rest areas and recreational facilities along the route. These enhancements not only promote healthier lifestyles but also encourage residents and tourists to explore the beauty of the surrounding landscape at a leisurely pace.

One of the few maintained historical turnouts along the Allegheny River Boulevard at the gateway to Penn Hills. Image credit: Rick Duncan, Allegheny River Boulevard Preservation Association

Moreover, efforts to restore the Allegheny River Boulevard extend beyond mere aesthetics; they also aim to preserve its historical and cultural significance. The boulevard is not just a road; it is a living testament to the region’s rich industrial heritage and legacy. As such, restoration plans incorporate measures to safeguard and showcase its historical landmarks, ensuring that future generations can appreciate and learn from the area’s past.

The initiative to restore the Allegheny River Boulevard is about more than just fixing a road; it is about revitalizing a symbol of thriving infrastructure, preserving a unique heritage, and reclaiming a piece of natural beauty. It is a testament to the power of collective action and the enduring spirit of those who refuse to let the past fade into obscurity. As the wheels of progress begin to turn, the promise of a rejuvenated Allegheny River Boulevard beckons, inviting all to rediscover and cherish the splendor of this timeless treasure.