From all angles, Liberty Tunnel work creates a mess
Commuters share the news in many ways, but they are unanimous in calling it bad
August 16, 2013 4:00 AM
The inbound Liberty Tunnel closed Wednesday and will remain so until 6 a.m. Aug. 30.
By Jon Schmitz Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Back in the dark ages, there was only a guy in an airplane or helicopter to tell us how bad traffic was and which areas to avoid.
The reports always seemed the same: "Saw Mill Run backed to Bausman," etc., and one might have suspected the reporter was actually on the ground reading from a script, pinching his nose to produce the tinny sound of a remote broadcast.
These days, the Internet and social media provide new windows through which to admire the morass that is Pittsburgh traffic. On Thursday, the view wasn't pretty. Closure of the inbound Liberty Tunnel for construction caused supersized backups on many southern and western routes into Downtown.
With the tunnel scheduled to stay closed until Aug. 30, the Post-Gazette thought it a good idea to monitor the situation using modern weaponry -- the 511.com website with its traffic camera views; the traffic feature on Google maps; the INRIX traffic app on a tablet computer; and, of course, Twitter, where there was a good bit of squawking to go with the tweeting during the morning rush.
"going anywhere towards the city from the south hills is a dead stop," one tweep posted shortly after 8 a.m.
"my bus can't move," chirped another from Pioneer Avenue in Brookline.
It was clear that the Parkway West was not a good choice for Liberty Tunnel customers, or for regular users. By 6:30 a.m. the traffic had spilled over the top of Green Tree Hill, and as of 10 a.m., when we got tired of checking, it was still backed to Carnegie.
Another option that didn't look very tasty was McArdle Roadway, which can be seen from the newspaper building. It was backed all the way to the top of Mount Washington and, for a time, according to a Twitter dispatch, back to Woodruff Street.
Greentree Road to the West End was showing up as another poor bet on INRIX and Google, both of which had it painted red (meaning traffic stopped or crawling) well back toward Parkway Center.
Exiting at Carnegie and following Routes 50 and 60 toward the West End might have produced a fleeting sense of triumph for drivers who breezed through East Carnegie, Oakwood and Westwood only to hit the wall at the West End.
There were no apparent major problems for those taking Streets Run Road, Baldwin Road and the Glenwood Bridge to make their entrance via Second Avenue. But it always feels as though you should have a wilderness survival kit for the first part of that trip, and then there's that guessing game on Second Avenue: Is it one lane or two?
Now that you've made it this far, we'll let you in on a couple of secrets, at the risk of spoiling things for those already in the know:
• The Wabash Tunnel. We watched for a while and saw no traffic coming out of the Station Square end. We had to check with Port Authority to make sure it was even open. You need two occupants in the vehicle to use it from 6 a.m., when it opens, until 10 a.m. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., single-occupant vehicles are allowed.
• Boggs Avenue to Wyoming Street to Sycamore Street, the "other way" over Mount Washington. "Easy peasy," said one tweep who tried it.
• The T. It scoffs with disdain at traffic jams. Just get to the park-n-ride lot before 7 a.m. (or park for $2 at South Hills Village, where there's always space available).
Or just rent a helicopter or airplane. Let us know how Saw Mill Run looks at Bausman.