Pittsburgh Gov Guide, A website of The Pittsburgh Foundation
Pittsburgh skyline at dusk taken from the North Side across the Allegheny river. Photo by Joshua Franzos.

Department of Public Works

The Department of Public Works is dedicated to providing creative and customer-friendly service while preserving the City's infrastructure through maintaining City streets, preserving park facilities, and rehabilitating public facilities. The department also meets the environmental needs of the City of Pittsburgh by collecting residential refuse and recyclables, with the City’s Anti-Litter Division monitoring all illegal dumpsites.

Public Works is committed to providing prompt, efficient and safe delivery of arboricultural services through the Forestry Division, which along with the Department of City Planning, focuses on tree maintenance, major park and playground upgrades, master plans, and donor-initiated projects. The Forestry Division is also responsible for the maintenance and health of Pittsburgh’s Urban Canopy, including 33,000-plus street and privately owned trees, trails, riverfronts, greenways, public facilities and right of ways. It also offers support to residents and community members who would like to help the City grow and maintain the urban canopy. Over the next 20 years, Pittsburgh’s urban forest will be a vital and well-managed asset that is locally valued and nationally recognized for its positive social, environmental, economic and public health impacts on the community and greater region.

Over a century after Director of Public Works, Edward M. Bigelow became known as the “father of our parks” for his ambitious park acquisitions. The department works daily to ensure these assets remain a gem of the community for the next century. With Pittsburgh’s historic parks having a wide variety of amenities, monuments, fountains, courts, fields and more, Public Works carries out the daily maintenance and repair. Around 100 laborers within the six Parks Divisions care for 165 public parks. The Street Maintenance Bureau is responsible for the care of the City's needs in street resurfacing, snow and ice removal, street sweeping, disaster response, and land records, ensuring safe and clean streets in Pittsburgh. Public Works also ensures the safety of residents and city visitors by responding to emergencies such as flooding, land subsidence, snow/ice storms and other weather-related catastrophes. Public Works classifies storm conditions into levels, which determine the required response for a given winter weather event. Based on the levels, residents and drivers can expect that all streets will be treated accordingly, including full deployment of snow removal resources.

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More about the Department of Public Works

Below is a list of content in the Department of Public Works' Transition Brief (prepared by Thomas Consulting Group for The Pittsburgh Foundation). 


  • Workforce is a tremendous threat and weakness. Described as "probably one of the biggest risks facing the City," the aging workforce creates a concerning vulnerability for the Department of Public Works. There are at least 10 people in the department who have worked for 40 years. There are some 70-year-olds still working as laborers and drivers. There is not a single, comprehensive resource that lists retirement-eligible staff, so at any given time, someone with decades of institutional knowledge can retire and the City will not be prepared to backfill. On any given day, 15-20% of the workforce is out due to illness or injury. The department runs very lean and is barely able to complete sanitation routes.
  • The capital budget is managed on a series of paper transactions and at the department level there is no visibility into the Comptroller's office to know the status of vendor payments on capital projects.
  • Creates perception of City as unreliable payer and causes contractors to inflate bids to ensure cash flow.
  • The operating budget does not include a contract for the regular cleaning and opening and closing of the public bathrooms in parks. Because the laborers do not have the capacity to add daily restroom responsibilities, the department uses a contract with a local porta potty company to make porta potties (externally managed) available in parks. As a result, the public restroom buildings remain closed.


  • Enabling legislation
  • Agency goals
  • Performance metrics
  • Budget
  • Programs and projects
  • Opportunities and risks
  • Reports

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