Allegheny County hopes to begin lifting more than two years of traffic restrictions on the Rankin Bridge this month and have pedestrian and vehicle traffic fully restored by Dec. 10.
Doug Aiken, manager of the Allegheny County Public Works Department construction division, said "if the weather doesn't go snow-crazy," the Route 837 underpass at Whitaker will reopen during Thanksgiving week.
"That will be a huge relief on the traffic backups," he said.
By Dec. 10, weather permitting, the county hopes to open two lanes in both directions on the bridge, which is undergoing a $47.8 million rehabilitation. Traffic has been restricted to one lane in each direction since August 2008.
The sidewalk, closed since last November, also will reopen.
Mr. Aiken said the bridge lanes will be slightly wider than before and a shoulder lane will be wide enough to accommodate bicyclists.
The entire project will not be completed until April and there will be occasional one-lane closures on short segments of the span while work is concluded, he said. Those closures are not expected to cause significant traffic delays.
The project schedule was stretched out and its budget increased by about $1 million as a result of the August 2007 interstate highway bridge collapse in Minneapolis that killed 13 and injured 145.
Because the collapse was blamed partly on failure of steel gusset plates that held various bridge beams and members together, federal and state authorities tightened the design standards for the plates.
The county was required to make changes to the Rankin Bridge plans to perform a variety of repairs on the gusset plates, Mr. Aiken said.
"With a bridge this size, it was significant," he said.
The bridge opened in 1951 and was rated structurally deficient before the rehabilitation project with a sufficiency rating of 31.4 on a 100-point scale. About 25,000 vehicles use it on a typical day, according to the state's bridge database.
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868. Visit "The Roundabout," the Post-Gazette's transportation blog, at post-gazette.com.