For Route 28 drivers who have endured three years of restrictions, traffic shifts, brake lights and exhaust fumes, there is promising news.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation tentatively plans to reopen a second outbound lane in the construction zone by the end of the year, spokesman Steve Cowan confirmed.
Outbound traffic has been limited to one lane since construction began in August 2010, causing daily backups from the merge point that were particularly acute during the evening rush.
When the work started, PennDOT had expected the restriction to continue well into 2014.Mr. Cowan said more details about upcoming steps in the $36.4 million fourth phase of Route 28 work will be made public soon.
Two significant changes are occurring this week, one of which has the potential to ease some of the chronic morning backups on the inbound side.
On Monday, outbound traffic was shifted to what will eventually be an on- and off-ramp to the 31st Street Bridge. It remains in a single lane, with no access to the bridge.
On Friday, weather permitting, all inbound traffic will be shifted into the excavated area beneath the bridge, eliminating the lane divide approaching the bridge.
The divide, which was implemented in May and carried one lane into the excavated area alongside the open outbound lane, caused extensive delays during the a.m. rush, with backups to the Highland Park Bridge nearly every weekday. Officials said drivers were confused by the configuration. PennDOT plans to begin the inbound revision at 9 a.m. Friday and have it completed by 5 p.m.
The Route 28 project is designed to modernize what had been one of the region's most congested and dangerous highways. The project, which is scheduled to continue into the fall of next year, is creating grade-separated interchanges at the 31st Street Bridge and 40th Street Bridge to eliminate signals for through traffic.
It also will provide permanent separation of inbound and outbound traffic, all but eliminating the risk of head-on collisions.