Centre Avenue to reopen to smooth Penguins traffic

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Construction on two bridges over Interstate 579-Crosstown Boulevard near Consol Energy Center is behind schedule, and they won't be open as planned for the Penguins regular-season home opener Oct. 11.

But the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said Monday that it would reopen westbound Centre Avenue in time for the opening faceoff.

Spokesman Jim Struzzi said the work schedule on two bridges -- carrying Seventh Avenue to Washington Place and connecting Sixth Avenue-Chatham Square to Bedford Avenue and Washington Place -- was changed after complaints from nearby hotels and other businesses about construction noise late at night.

That has pushed the projected completion date back to Nov. 19, he said.

Travis Williams, chief operating officer for the Penguins, said hockey fans and other arena guests already have adjusted to the closures. Consol has hosted concerts all summer plus three preseason hockey games.

The Penguins and PennDOT have arranged for additional police officers to move out rush-hour traffic on event nights to clear the way for incoming fans and to clear postgame traffic.

"We've alerted our season ticket holder base to allow a little extra time," Mr. Williams said. "With the geography of Downtown Pittsburgh, there are not a lot of alternate routes you can create. We're confident at the end of the day that our fans will be able to get in and out."

Centre has been open only to eastbound traffic from Washington Place to Sixth since March during bridge rehabilitation.

The other two bridges were closed in July, and the first rush hour after the closure produced such a huge traffic jam on the Veterans Bridge that some passengers got out of cars and walked.

PennDOT quickly arranged to have Pittsburgh police officers at intersections near the Sixth and Seventh avenue off-ramps to move rush-hour traffic.

But the officers weren't there Monday morning, and once again, a huge traffic jam ensued.

The officers were not deployed because a PennDOT contractor neglected to order them, a city official said.

"It was an error on their part. They have to order officers," said the spokeswoman, who declined to be identified. She said the situation has been rectified and officers will be stationed at the intersections for the remainder of the week.

One driver reported it took 40 minutes to travel one mile on the bridge to reach the off-ramps, and another said traffic backed well up the Parkway North.

Construction on the three bridges is part of the $18.7 million first phase of rehabilitation of bridge and ramp structures along the Crosstown Boulevard-Veterans Bridge corridor.


Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868.


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