Scare jams traffic in Pittsburgh

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The investigation into a suspicious package at a UPS Store prompted Pittsburgh police to close a leg of Forbes Avenue, resulting in serious traffic delays on the main outbound artery through Oakland for most of Wednesday evening.

The package was reported to authorities around 6:40 p.m., when a clerk at the 3945 Forbes Ave. store noticed that a parcel marked to contain paperwork had additional contents, including wires and had a "metal sound" when shaken, said Kenneth Service, vice chancellor for communications at the University of Pittsburgh.

The city police bomb squad and hazmat team responded.

A perimeter around the store was established by the bomb squad, and Forbes was blocked off from South Bouquet Street to Bigelow Boulevard to motorists and pedestrians. Two Pitt dormitories also were evacuated.

City police Cmdr. Scott Schubert said the bomb squad determined a safety perimeter around the suspicious package. Police then decided where to begin the traffic detour, authorities said.

Three lanes of traffic on Forbes backed up at least a half mile, from Craft Avenue to South Bouquet, from where motorists were directed to Roberto Clemente Drive, onto Schenley Drive and back to Forbes Avenue.

The detour -- which left a trail of frustrated motorists more than a mile long -- was deemed to be the "easiest way and still safe" to keep motorists on their route, Cmdr. Schubert said.

City police Cmdr. Kathy Degler said the detour was "the last possible place" traffic could be safely sent.

The Port Authority rerouted 28X; 58; 61A, B, C, D; 67 and 69 buses.

Three hours later, the bomb squad determined that the package was not a bomb and no threat existed. The materials in the package were characterized as "scientific materials," Mr. Service said.

About 220 students in Brackenridge and Bruce halls had been evacuated, with students advised to go to the William Pitt Union.

A surveillance video captured images of a man leaving the package, Pittsburgh police Sgt. Brian Elledge said. No one was in custody Wednesday night, Mr. Service said.


Lexi Belculfine: or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc. First Published September 19, 2013 4:00 AM


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