Tourism found in Pittsburgh?s steps
PITTSBURGH (AP) ? Bob Regan is out to save part of Pittsburgh?s history one step at a time.
Not long after moving here from Boston 12 years ago, Regan was smitten by the sight of the hundreds of stairways and thousands of steps linking one hilly street level to another.
?They?re so incredibly unique. They?re historic,? said Regan, a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh, specializing in geographic information systems. ?No other city has this to this extent.?
More than half of these pedestrian thoroughfares are legal streets and show up on maps as such, confounding many a motorist in this jumble of hills, valleys and bridges that could have served as an inspiration for artist M.C. Escher.
Regan calls the steps the city?s first mass transportation system. They enabled laborers to travel between now-defunct steel mills along the rivers and their homes along the steep hillsides, which rise as high as 370 feet above downtown.
Regan first began paying attention to the steps on morning bike rides. His real inspiration came one day when he looked up and saw what looked like a hillside column illuminated by streetlights. The ?column? was actually a stairway.
?So I went home and woke my wife and said, ?I?m taking two or three months off to map the steps.? And that?s what I did,? Regan said.
?The Steps of Pittsburgh: Portrait of a City,? with photographer Tim Fabian, was published earlier this month.
He documented 712 sets of mostly concrete steps containing 44,645 treads within the city?s borders. If stacked, they would extend 4.5 miles. And Regan has climbed them all. Municipalities sharing the city?s border also have steps.
?My whole goal right now is to publicize the steps. The more publicity they get, the better the chances for their preservation,? he said.
?There?s a lot of maintenance not only in winter with snow and ice control, but in the summer with weed control and litter,? said Guy Costa, the city?s public works director.
Last year, the city spent $250,000 on maintenance and repair of the steps, Costa said. This year, for the first time Costa is aware, the city budgeted no money for step maintenance, though crews will do minor repairs.
Fabian, a Pittsburgh resident, admitted he never really noticed the steps, which are in two-thirds of the city?s 90 neighborhoods.
Fabian specializes in panoramic photography in which typically the top and bottom of a photo appear cropped, giving a wide horizontal view. Fabian turned the camera ? a plastic Ansco Pix Panorama purchased for $2 at a flea market ? 90 degrees to focus on the steps? vertical nature.
?As a photographer, this is a real opportunity for me to photograph a way of life,? he said.
Many steps are old ? most around today were built between 1925 and 1945 ? and are deteriorating. Still, Regan commends the city public works department for what maintenance has been done, even as the city has faced continuing budget problems. He?s donated his research to the city.
Regan believes the steps, if marketed by the city, could be a tourist draw. Some neighborhood associations have step walks, but the city has been, well, a step behind.
?I think it has a lot of potential, but we haven?t done a lot with it yet,? said Laura Ellis, a spokeswoman for the Greater Pittsburgh Convention & Visitors Bureau.
But reading Regan?s book, she said, has made her consider what can be done with the steps.
?I think Pittsburghers take a lot of wonderful things for granted,? such as its rivers, scenic views and architecture. ?You tend not to see the things that are right in front of you.?

Ecstasy seller sentenced to 11 years
PITTSBURGH (AP) ? A man from the Netherlands who federal prosecutors said was the manufacturer for a massive ecstasy ring that stretched across three states and grossed more than $1 million was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison.
A Pittsburgh federal judge on Wednesday sentenced Stefan Stricker, 34, of Heemskerk, to 11 years, three months in prison for his December guilty plea to drug charges and money laundering.
With his plea, Stricker was the last of 40 people to plead guilty in the past two years as part of a federal investigation.
Federal prosecutors said Stricker hid the drug in tabletop cosmetic mirrors and hollowed out furniture to smuggle it from the Netherlands into the United States or Canada and then on to Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Hampshire.
The investigation began in the fall of 2000 when drug dogs at the airport in Frankfort, Germany, sniffed out a shipment of 22,000 tablets of Ecstasy bound for Indiana, Pennsylvania.
Stricker was among six people arrested in May last year.