Just before noon, a car drove up South Highland Avenue, headed toward the bridge that would take its driver over the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway into Shadyside.
Starting today, however, that route is no longer an option, and at least one driver found the bridge blocked and had to make a U-turn and return toward East Liberty.
The South Highland Avenue Bridge, a 117-foot-long span that links East Liberty and Shadyside, was closed at about 9 a.m. so that work can begin to replace the rust and graffiti-covered structure. The $2.9 million project is expected to continue through mid-September, forcing the thousands of bus passengers, drivers and pedestrians who use the neighborhood link daily to find alternate routes.
Pedestrians such as John Franco of Swissvale, who works for ComponentOne, a software company with offices next to the bridge on South Highland Avenue.
Mr. Franco 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 today, as he walked on South Highland away from the bridge. "I'll make do. I'll probably bring my lunch a little bit more."
Two Port Authority bus routes, the 71B Highland Park and the 75 Ellsworth, were detoured starting this 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 minutes commute time to each route, but Heather Pharo, a spokeswoman for the Port Authority, said today there were no major issues involving delays or passengers finding their routes.
Some businesses in the area, however, expressed worries.
"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., she said business was slower than usual for the typical Monday.