"The public will get its first detailed look today at plans to untangle the intersection of Routes 51 and 88 in Overbrook." -- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 2, 1993.
More than 17 years later, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation says it's really going to happen: a $14 million plan to improve traffic flow and safety at the notoriously congested intersection.
"The project is fully funded for construction," PennDOT spokesman Jim Struzzi said.
The key feature will be a two-lane "jug handle" that northbound Route 51 traffic will use to turn onto Route 88 and Glenbury Street. Traffic will exit right and loop around the Rite Aid pharmacy to pass through the intersection.
That will replace the short left-turn lane that often is overstacked with traffic, causing delays for northbound through traffic.
Other key improvements are a northbound left-turn lane on Route 51 at Stewart Avenue, south of the Route 88 intersection, and a second jug handle for southbound traffic via Fairhaven Road and Stewart Avenue.
Southbound drivers on Route 51 who want to reach St. Norbert Church in Overbrook or the residential areas surrounding it will continue to the jug handle rather than turning left at Ivyglen Street. The jug handle will funnel them to the northbound side.
Three structurally deficient bridges and two culverts will be replaced and a new culvert built over Weyman Run as part of the project, which will enter final design this fall, with construction to begin in earnest in early 2013. Completion is scheduled for fall 2014.
PennDOT expects to maintain two lanes of Route 51 traffic in both directions throughout the construction. Northbound Route 88 traffic will have to be detoured for about three months, and short-term detours also will occur on Fairhaven Road and Stewart Avenue.
The plans were viewed by about 200 people on Monday night at an open house at St. Norbert Church.
Senior project manager Jeff Clatty said the project is "not the ideal solution" but more elaborate proposals, including flyover ramps, would be cost-prohibitive "and do a lot of damage to the community."
"We'll see a significant reduction in delay times out there," he said.
Plans to improve the intersection go back nearly 40 years but have been sidetracked by a lack of funding. Because of the condition of bridges at the intersection, PennDOT cannot wait any longer, Mr. Clatty said.
In addition to improving traffic flow, the proposed changes will enhance safety, he said. The new left-turn lane at Stewart Avenue will reduce the frequency of rear-end collisions there.
The configuration of the new bridges also will improve the flow of Weyman Run and Saw Mill Run, reducing the potential for flooding, Mr. Clatty said.
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868. Visit "The Roundabout," the Post-Gazette's transportation blog, at post-gazette.com.