How steep is Beechview’s Canton Avenue? Steepest street in U.S.

September 16, 2018
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Pittsburgh Councilman Anthony Coghill unveils the sign at the top of Canton Avenue in Beechview declaring it the steepest street in the United States during a ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018. (Tony LaRussa/Tribune-Review)

Dolly Love always knew the Beechview street where she grew up was one of the steepest in Pittsburgh -- she and her friends spent countless snowy days zipping down Canton Avenue, using plastic garbage bags for sleds.

But news that Canton Avenue is the steepest street in the nation came as a shock to Love.

“I’ve seen cars struggle to get up the street in winter and have to turn around, but I never realized it was the steepest street in the country,” she said. “It’s almost hard to believe. But now it’s a tourist attraction.”

Love, 54, said rarely a day goes by when people don’t stop to view the street.

“Sometimes it’s one or two people, but I’ve seen days when anywhere from 10 to 50 people come up to see Canton Avenue for themselves,” she said.

On Saturday morning, Canton Avenue was formally crowned the steepest of the steep when a pair of signs -- one at the top and another at the bottom -- were unveiled by city Councilman Anthony Coghill, who represents the neighborhood.

“My first impression of this street while growing up in Beechview was: What were they thinking? Who would build a street like this up here?” he said.

Coghill said Canton Avenue deserves the attention it gets.

“Anything we can do to bring attention to this great neighborhood is fantastic,” he said. “I’m very optimistic about what’s happening in this community.”

In 2016, Audi filmed a TV ad on the hill to demonstrate that its Quattro A4 car could make it up without a problem despite driving over sand, mud and snow. The Audi commercial also featured a world-renowned skier, snowboarder and downhill mountain biker traversing the mostly cobblestone hill.

Canton Avenue’s place as the steepest street in the United States also has been recognized by major news outlets, including the Huffington Post, worldatlas.com, Fox News and others.

Canton has also grown into a yearly challenge for bicycling enthusiasts competing in the annual Dirty Dozen race. And the Hell on Hills foot race starts at its base, climbs it and claims to be the world’s steepest 5K.

Cyclist Scott Koerber, 43, of Edgewood, said while other hills in the city might be more challenging because of their combined grade and length, going up Canton Avenue is no easy task.

“It’s short, it’s steep and it’s not easy,” he said between gasps of air after completing one of several trips he made up Canton on Saturday.

While many Pittsburghers -- especially Northsiders -- often cite Rialto Street in Troy Hill, which has a 24 percent grade, as the steepest road around, it actually comes in at No. 5 on the local list of steep streets.

After Canton, which has a 37 percent grade, there’s Dornbush Street in East Hills, 31.98 percent grade; Boustead Avenue in Beechview, 29 percent; and East Woodford Avenue in Carrick, 27.7 percent.

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