PennDOT analyzes Parkway East puzzle

Officials using data to ease congestion, improve safety

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The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is putting the Parkway East and its connecting road network under a microscope, hoping to identify ways to make traffic flow more smoothly.

A consultant team headed by Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. last week began collecting data along the parkway and surrounding roads from Downtown Pittsburgh to Monroeville, a process that will take several months and include traffic counts, roadway measurements and an inventory of signs and traffic control equipment.

The goal is to identify short-term, affordable measures to move traffic and improve safety, said Dan Cessna, PennDOT district executive.

"There's been no comprehensive evaluation of the Parkway East in well over 20 years," he said. "It's time to do that."

One thing that won't happen is a widening of the parkway or more tunnels at the Squirrel Hill choke point. "The reality with the topography is that's not going to happen," Mr. Cessna said.

As data collection continues, PennDOT will invite input from affected communities and drivers. While no specific solutions are being considered yet, Mr. Cessna said transit improvements and upgrades to connecting roads could ease some of the parkway congestion.

"If you make the network better, it gives people opportunities where they might not jump on the parkway to go one exit," he said.

A year ago, PennDOT backed away from a $5 million plan to design and build a ramp-metering system in which vehicles entering the parkway would be briefly halted by traffic signals on the ramps, while other ramps would close altogether during peak hours.

The plan sparked opposition from residents and public officials who said it would cause delays for people living closer to the city just to benefit drivers coming from more distant suburbs.

Jon Schmitz: or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at Twitter: @pgtraffic.

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