$2.9 million project to replace span severs the link through September
March 5, 2013 5:00 AM
Duquesne Light workers remove utility lines after the closing of the South Highland Avenue Bridge on Monday. A $2.9 million project to replace the bridge that links East Liberty and Shadyside will keep it closed to foot and vehicle traffic through September.
By Kaitlynn Riely Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ginny Smiley, owner of Smiley's Pet Pad in Shadyside, has mixed feelings about the South Highland Avenue Bridge.
For the more than a decade that her store has been located on South Highland Avenue, the bridge has carried traffic to her store. But she knew it was old and rusted and needed to be replaced.
On Monday, the process of replacing the bridge began, with a $2.9 million project that will keep the 117-foot span that links East Liberty and Shadyside closed to foot and vehicle traffic through September.
"I know it's something that has to be done," Ms. Smiley said Monday, a few hours after the bridge closed at 9 a.m.
Although her store was busier than usual for an hour Monday morning, she said the closure will definitely affect her business.
"There's no doubt about that," she said.
On the first day of the South Highland Avenue Bridge closure, some of the thousands of bus passengers, drivers and pedestrians who use the neighborhood link daily were adjusting to the change.
Just before noon, a car drove up South Highland Avenue, headed toward the bridge that would normally take its driver over the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway into Shadyside. Instead, the driver found the bridge blocked and had to make a U-turn and return toward East Liberty.
John Franco of Swissvale, who works for ComponentOne, a software company with offices next to the bridge on South Highland Avenue, usually parks on a residential street a few blocks from his office, then takes a staircase that ascends from Ellsworth Avenue onto the bridge. At the end of the workday, he returns to his car by descending the same staircase. Sometimes, he crosses the bridge to get something to eat for lunch.
Not anymore, though.
"It will probably be a minor inconvenience," he said Monday, as he walked on South Highland away from the bridge. "I'll make do. I'll probably bring my lunch a little bit more."
Drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists are still able to travel from Shadyside to East Liberty and back again, and signs on surrounding streets indicate detour routes. Two Port Authority bus routes, the 71B Highland Park and the 75 Ellsworth, were detoured starting Monday morning. The 71B will travel up Shady Avenue, instead of South Highland Avenue, and the 75 will detour from Ellsworth and travel through neighborhood streets in Shadyside.
The detours add a couple of minutes of commute time to each route, but Heather Pharo, a spokeswoman for the Port Authority, said there were no major issues involving delays or passengers finding their routes.
Other businesses in the area were worried customers would have trouble finding them.
"It's definitely going to affect new customers," said Melissa Lynn, manager of the Supercuts on South Highland. Often, first-time customers will tell her they saw the shop while they were driving by and decided to stop.
That's less likely to happen for the next several months, she said, and by about 11:30 a.m. Monday, business was slower than usual for the typical start of the week.