“Pittsburgh Welcomes The World”, that’s what the sign says. These signs have been popping up from the Greater Pittsburgh International to downtown Pittsburgh during the past few weeks. Businesses along the Parkway West corridor proudly displayed the large green and blue banners from their buildings to welcome the G-20 world leaders to Pittsburgh.
The City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have been preparing for the summit for months from the day President Obama announced that Pittsburgh was chosen to host the summit at a press conference where the news was met with laughs from the press corps. But, the people of Pittsburgh were not laughing, we are very proud of our city for its advances in health care, education and technology.
On the positive side, the summit is doing many great things for the city. Pittsburgh, the city most recently known for its World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers and Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, is now in the spotlight of the world media who are in town to report on the summit. Hotel rooms in Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas have been sold out for months. Sold out hotel rooms at the end of summer is not a common occurrence in Pittsburgh. The hotels will make millions of dollars this week in both room revenue and food and beverage sales. Taxi drivers and car rental agencies will also do very well this week. Local restaurants and bars, not in the downtown area, will also do well this week.
However, Pittsburghers are dealing with many inconveniences during the week of the summit. The downtown area is closed to all vehicles with the exception of medical vehicles and delivery vendors. As a result, many companies made the decision to close their offices from Wednesday afternoon through Friday. Highmark has relocated several hundred employees to its Camp Hill offices located about three hours from Pittsburgh. Other companies have asked their employees to work at branch offices located outside of the city. Some companies are allowing their employees to work from home during the summit. A few companies have even given their employees two days off with pay. And, a few not so nice companies have forced their employees to take two vacation days.
Many school districts and universities have also been forced to close during the summit because of their close proximity to the city. Road closures went into effect last night around the campuses of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University due their close proximity to Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens the site of tonight’s opening reception and dinner.
Traveling into downtown Pittsburgh during the Thursday morning rush hour felt like a Sunday morning drive into the city with very little traffic on the highways. Driving through the Pittsburgh airport corridor presented a huge challenge for many motorists beginning at 6:00 PM on Wednesday evening when the Indian and Indonesian delegations arrived at the airport. The commute became even more challenging today as the heads of states from the other countries arrived including President and Mrs. Obama. Unannounced rolling closures were in effect all day today. The entrance ramps on both sides of I-279/376 were shut down every time a motorcade traveled the highway backing up traffic for miles.
Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are well prepared to host this G-20 summit. Tight security measures in place to ensure the safety of the world leaders and city is ready to shine from Phipps, to the Heinz family farm, to the CAPA School for the Performing Arts, to the Andy Warhol Museum. Professional chefs from around the globe have come to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the first green convention center in the country, to prepare outstanding meals for the dignitaries and their delegates.
Even the local television weather teams have converted the temperatures into Celsius to make the world leaders feel at home. It’s supposed to be a beautiful and sunny day tomorrow when Pittsburgh will make its official debut to the world as the host city of the G-20 summit and we can all be proud to call Pittsburgh home.