Detours and restrictions expected to clog roadways

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The dog days of summer are about to become the clog days, as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation prepares to close three major arteries for construction.

The outbound Squirrel Hill Tunnel and outbound Liberty Tunnel will close at 10 p.m. Friday. The Squirrel Hill Tunnel will reopen by 6 a.m. Monday, but the Liberty Tunnel will remain closed until the morning of Aug. 12. Meanwhile, overnight closures of the inbound tunnel will continue at 10 p.m. daily except Saturdays.

Things will get more complicated Aug. 2, when PennDOT will close outbound West Carson Street from the West End Bridge to McKees Rocks at 9 p.m. for more than two years of construction, sending 8,000 vehicles a day on a detour that uses the West End Bridge, Route 65 and the McKees Rocks Bridge.

The project will cause detours on several Port Authority bus routes. As of Wednesday, the transit agency had not finalized the changes. Chuck Rompala, assistant manager of road operations, said at a community meeting Wednesday night that inbound West Busway trips would operate as usual but outbound trips will be detoured via Steuben Street and Chartiers Avenue, entering the busway at Sheraden Station.

There is this silver lining amid all of the construction dust: Port Authority expects to reopen the Wabash Tunnel, connecting the South Side and Route 51, at 6 a.m. Saturday, providing another option to travelers of the Liberty Tunnels and West Carson Street. It has been restricted or closed since late October, when a truck damaged traffic control equipment at the reversible-flow tunnel.

During peak periods, tunnel users must have at least two occupants in the vehicle. Also, because of a rash of late-night incidents involving intoxicated drivers, the Port Authority board has ordered it closed from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily.

The tunnel is open inbound to HOV-2 traffic from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays; inbound to all traffic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays; outbound to HOV-2 traffic from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays; and outbound to all traffic from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays.

All vehicles may use the tunnel in the outbound direction from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends.

The Squirrel Hill Tunnel closure will send traffic on a familiar detour along Forward Avenue, Beechwood Boulevard, Forbes Avenue and South Braddock Avenue during daylight hours. After 8 p.m., PennDOT recommends that drivers use Murray Avenue instead of Beechwood.

The extended closure of the outbound Liberty Tunnel will allow a contractor to replace the concrete arch at the south end. Another extended closure, of the inbound tunnel, is planned for later in the summer.

Port Authority again will detour Red Line service on Saturday and Sunday for track work in Beechview.

Inbound service will serve stops from South Hills Village to Overbrook Junction-Willow, then use Blue Line routing to South Hills Junction, where it will resume regular routing to Station Square, Downtown and the North Shore. Inbound rail shuttles will operate from Overbrook Junction to Potomac, and shuttle buses will serve inbound stops from Potomac to South Hills Junction and Station Square. Outbound service will operate normally.

Other significant road work projects are bringing restrictions in the coming days:

• Paving on Route 8 in Shaler is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. today between Saxonburg Boulevard and Spencer Lane and will continue on weeknights through July 31. Northbound traffic will be shifted to the southbound side, with a single-lane pattern in both directions. Restrictions will be lifted by 5 a.m. daily.

• Resurfacing and reconstruction will reduce traffic to one lane in both directions on Allegheny River Boulevard between James Street in Verona and College Avenue in Oakmont at 8 p.m. on weeknights starting Friday and continuing through Aug. 30. All lanes will reopen by 6 a.m. daily. Two around-the-clock weekend closures are planned to begin at 8 p.m. Aug. 2 and 9.

• Route 65 construction will restrict traffic to one lane in both directions from Kendall Avenue in Bellevue to the McKees Rocks Bridge this weekend.

• Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon will have periodic lane closures through the weekend north of the Gilkeson-Connor roads intersection.

• The inbound ramp from the Liberty Bridge to Crosstown Boulevard-Interstate 579 will be closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and Friday.

• Two ramps have closed at the Route 51-Route 837 interchange in Jefferson Hills and West Elizabeth: from northbound Route 51 to southbound Route 837, and from southbound Route 837 to northbound Route 51, through mid-August.

• Crack and joint sealing on Lebanon Church Road in West Mifflin will cause intermittent lane closures from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and Friday between Route 51 and Buttermilk Hollow Road.

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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. First Published July 24, 2013 2:30 PM


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