The coming weekend will have an extra hour, and those who drive the inbound Parkway East might squander it in a traffic jam.
For the fifth time this year, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will close the westbound-inbound side of the Squirrel Hill Tunnels as a three-season, $49.5 million rehabilitation project continues. The closure will be from 9 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.
Previous weekend closures in July, August and two last month have produced large backups, as all traffic is forced to merge into one lane and exit at Edgewood-Swissvale. The posted detour uses South Braddock Avenue and Forbes Avenue to Squirrel Hill, then Beechwood Boulevard by day and Murray Avenue after 8 p.m. to return to the parkway.
There will be no restrictions in the outbound tunnel.
PennDOT again is suggesting that drivers get creative and consider other ways around the tunnel closure, including the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
For those who choose to take the parkway, real-time information about traffic conditions is available on PennDOT's District 11 website, www.dot.state.pa.us. Click on the "PennDOT Near You" pane and then the "11" on the map that appears.
The district's home page has a link to "Squirrel Hill Tunnel Rehabilitation Project" which displays posted detour routes, six camera views from the detour that refresh every 10 seconds and estimated travel times on the detour.
The state's 511pa.com website provides access to traffic camera feeds at hundreds of locations in the Pittsburgh area, including several on the parkway as it approaches the tunnels.
Crews will continue to remove a drop ceiling in the inbound tunnel and do other rehabilitation work. PennDOT is hoping the contractor will complete the ceiling removal this weekend.
In addition to a needed refurbishing of the tunnel, which last had extensive rehabilitation work 30 years ago, the project is increasing the vertical clearance in the inbound tunnel by two feet, to 15 feet, 6 inches. PennDOT is hoping that will reduce the frequency of too-tall trucks being stopped at the entrance and turned around while other drivers wait.
Spokesman Jim Struzzi said PennDOT and its contractor haven't yet determined whether another weekend closure will be needed this season.
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Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1868 and on Twitter @pgtraffic. First Published October 30, 2012 12:45 AM