Bus, trolley riders warned of closing of bridge over Route 51

Palm Garden bridge to shut Sunday for six months to construct new span

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The Port Authority has launched an information blitz to prepare riders for a Sunday closing of the Palm Garden Bridge, which carries the South Busway and about half of all light-rail traffic over Route 51 to the city.

It's easy to see why: 42S South Hills Village via Beechview trolleys cross the lengthy span 1,401 times a week, while buses on 15 different routes cross it 2,753 times a week.

As a result, thousands of suburban and city transit riders have to figure out if -- and how -- they will be impacted by the six months of construction.

Generally, riders whose buses don't travel the South Busway need not be concerned, except for two routes -- 41E Mount Washington and 46K Knoxville. Some of those buses will be diverted to slightly different routing.

And trolley riders whose LRVs don't travel the Mt. Lebanon-Dormont-Beechview corridor need not be concerned, except for one route -- the 47L Library. In all but weekday rush hours, a new "44L Library Short" will operate between Library and Castle Shannon Junction where riders can transfer to continue their trips aboard 47S South Hills Village cars.

"There could be confusion, but that's why we're making this push to get the information out there," Port Authority spokesman Bob Grove said.

The authority has printed thousands of brochures and created special schedules for some interim service. The information is being laminated and posted at every trolley stop and select bus stops.

In addition, the authority has distributed a detailed, five-page news release and posted changes on its Web site, www.portauthority.org.

Kim Guseman, who commutes on "46" series buses that use the South Busway, is concerned about buses detouring over Mount Washington via Arlington and Warrington avenues.

She noted that authority officials shifted buses to the Wabash Tunnel after three weeks last fall for a previous stage of work.

"The move saved 10 to 15 minutes," she said, wondering why the Wabash won't be used again.

"We had all the rail service going over Mount Washington in addition to the buses," Mr. Grove explained. "This time, the rail service will be using the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel, so she will not see that kind of congestion."

In addition, the authority said it's important to maintain bus service to South Hills Junction and Station Square because of significant transit traffic at those locations.

During the shutdown, the 42S via Beechview will be discontinued to Downtown but will provide shuttle service between Castle Shannon and Beechview, with transfer opportunities to other T routes or temporary bus routes to be established at the Dormont station and other points.

A 42F Broadway bus route will operate between Fallowfield station and Downtown beginning Saturday, a day earlier, because of preliminary construction activities.

The Port Authority is spending $9.4 million to rehabilitate the 30-year-old concrete-and-steel span that crosses Route 51 near the south end of the Liberty Tunnels. Years of trolleys and buses sharing the two-lane structure have helped speed its deterioration.

Work will include replacing the embedded rails and the overhead 650-volt electrical lines from which trolleys draw their power.

In addition, the contract calls for rehabilitating bus ramps to and from West Liberty Avenue and part of the rail system to the Dawn and Traymore stops.

Joe Grata can be reached at jgrata@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1985.


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