The Route 28 project is ready for its big dig.
All three traffic lanes in the work zone will be shifted this weekend toward new retaining walls that have been built into the side of Troy Hill. That will clear the way for a massive excavation for what will eventually be the main travel lanes, which will pass under a new interchange at the 31st Street Bridge.
"We couldn't be more pleased with the progress to date," said Dan Cessna, district executive for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
To make the shift, inbound Route 28 traffic will be reduced to a single lane from 8 p.m. Friday to about 8 a.m. Sunday. When the shift is completed, the construction pattern of two inbound lanes and one outbound lane will resume. That pattern will remain in place until fall, when another shift is scheduled.
While work on the current and future phases of the project will continue through 2014, drivers already are getting some of the benefits. The interchange at the 40th Street Bridge has been completed, with through traffic no longer snagged by traffic signals.
"We're receiving a lot of compliments" about the configuration, appearance and upgraded signage on the new section, Mr. Cessna said. "As a motorist you feel safer, I think, coming through there. We're pleased with the aesthetic look of the walls and barriers."
The current $36.4 million phase is about 30 percent complete and ahead of schedule, he said. It calls for a 22-foot-deep excavation for the new travel lanes, taking them beneath what will be a signalized intersection for traffic to and from the 31st Street Bridge. Through traffic will not have signals.
It also calls for demolition and replacement of the end sections of the bridge, which were deliberately omitted from a major rehabilitation project completed in 2007.
The final phase of Route 28 work is reconstruction of the section that passes St. Nicholas Church and connects to ramps to the North Side and Downtown. That contract is scheduled for bidding in October 2013, with construction the following year.
To accommodate the narrow corridor between the church and railroad tracks, the road when rebuilt will have narrower shoulders -- 1 foot wide rather than the 2-foot width elsewhere in the reconstruction area. Travel lanes will be 11 feet wide throughout the project area, a foot wider than before the work started.
The parish won a court order last month clearing the way for demolition of the historic church, but the city plans to appeal. It's not clear whether removal of the church would allow PennDOT to widen the design of the road.
"We'd have to evaluate it," Mr. Cessna said.
He also said he expects the department will reach agreement with the owner of Allegheny Auto Body, who has said he won't vacate the business to make way for the road project.
"I have no intention of leaving," William Lieberth Sr. told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last month.
"We have had very good negotiations in the last few weeks. We expect to resolve that claim very soon," Mr. Cessna said.