The holiday respite for Squirrel Hill Tunnel construction will end Jan. 2, and drivers will face another season of lane restrictions and weekend detours from a project that is scheduled to continue into the summer of 2014.
Overnight lane closures were suspended for the holiday week but will resume in both directions on weekdays after New Year's Day, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Beyond that, the schedule is not yet fixed, but is certain to include more full weekend closures, first on the inbound side and then outbound.
The contractor on the $49.5 million project, Walsh Construction Co. of Cecil, used five of its allotted eight weekend closures of the inbound tunnel this year. It also is permitted to close the outbound tunnel eight times.
"The work's progressing well," PennDOT spokesman Jim Struzzi said. "I don't know if they're going to need all of the allotted closings."
In addition to renovating electrical and ventilation systems, repairing concrete and tile and resurfacing the tunnel, the contractor is removing the false ceilings, raising the vertical clearance from the current 13 feet, 6 inches to 15 feet, 6 inches inbound and 14 feet, 9 inches outbound.
Officials expect that the higher clearance will reduce the number of times traffic is stopped while overheight trucks are turned around at the tunnel entrances. Backups when that happens can delay drivers by up to 30 minutes.
While much of the inbound ceiling has been removed, some work remains before PennDOT can adjust the clearance for the inbound tunnel, Mr. Struzzi said.