Soak up the Pittsburgh-area fun during Fourth of July


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Pittsburgh's Independence Day celebration will feature not one but two fireworks extravaganzas punctuating the 36th annual Three Rivers Regatta, a three-day splash that began Tuesday.

Here and across the land, lots of people will be going lots of places to celebrate America's 237th birthday.

AAA has projected that 40.8 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home, 34.4 million of them by automobile. That's down slightly from last year's July 4 holiday but up 6 million from the Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA CEO Robert Darbelnet.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is anticipating about 2.5 million vehicles, about a half-million more than over Memorial Day. Port Authority is ramping up July 4 service on the Blue and Red lines. The Best Team in Major League Baseball will host the Second Best Team in Pennsylvania at PNC Park tonight and Thursday afternoon.

The EQT Three Rivers Regatta has scheduled two fireworks displays for the first time ever, one tonight and one Thursday night.

The fireworks and other regatta events will cause a raft (forgive us) of boating restrictions around the Point, including a Coast Guard safety zone along the Allegheny River from the west edge of Heinz Field to the Clemente Bridge from 1 to 9 p.m. today and Thursday. Additional restrictions will occur during fireworks and other regatta events.

Commonwealth Place will be closed adjacent to the park from 4 to 11 p.m. today and from noon until midnight on Thursday.

Regatta organizers said they expect a crowd of 500,000. How many people is that? Well, if you could put one person upon every square yard of the 36-acre Point State Park, that would accommodate about 174,000, leaving 326,000 people. Allotting one yard of standing room per person, that's enough people to line the rivers, five deep, for a distance of 37 miles.

So we're kind of hoping everyone doesn't come at once.

We're also hoping the weather forecasts are wrong -- the National Weather Service says heavy rain is possible through Friday.

According to AAA, the largest share of travelers, about 32 percent, will depart today, and Sunday will be the busiest return day, with 38 percent heading home. It said the average traveler will go 613 miles round trip and spend $747.

Today and Sunday figure to be the busiest days on the turnpike, which has suspended construction work to keep all lanes open. Turnpike officials and state police urged motorists to refrain from aggressive driving, texting while driving and driving under the influence.

A federally funded "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" enforcement blitz will have additional troopers out on the highways through Monday. Twenty people died in alcohol-related crashes over last year's Independence Day holiday, up from 14 the previous year, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

The state Fish and Boat Commission said waterways conservation officers will be watching for impaired boaters. Sixty people were charged with boating under the influence in 2012, it said.

Port Authority buses and inclines will operate on a holiday schedule. On the T, a special July 4 schedule with extra service will operate. Pink and blue service brochures are available at major schedule rack locations; the schedules also are posted at portauthority.org.

region - holidays

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at www.post-gazette.com/Roundabout. Twitter: @pgtraffic.


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