Rt. 88-51 project finally underway

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Work has begun on a long-awaited $19 million project to revamp the Route 51-Route 88 intersection in Pittsburgh's Overbrook section.

The contractor, Joseph B. Fay Co., has begun excavation to create the project's key feature, a two-lane "jug handle" for northbound Route 51 drivers who want to reach Route 88 or Glenbury Street. Demolition and utility relocation also are underway.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will host an open house, to display project plans and construction schedules, answer questions and invite public comments, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. today at St. Norbert Church's meeting hall, 2413 St. Norbert St.

Improvements to the congested intersection have been discussed for decades but never advanced until now because of a lack of funding.

Five deficient bridges and culverts will be replaced and a new bridge constructed. Improvements will be made to traffic signals, lighting, sidewalks and stream flow. Several new traffic cameras will be installed.

PennDOT plans to maintain four lanes of traffic on Route 51 during busy travel times but off-peak closures and restrictions are planned in the project area. Work is scheduled to conclude in November 2015.

The jug handle will loop around the Rite Aid pharmacy. Northbound Route 51 traffic will use it to reach Route 88 and Glenbury, replacing the short left-turn lane that often is overstacked, causing delays for 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 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.

PennDOT expects the reconfiguration to reduce delays at the intersection, which handles upward of 40,000 vehicles per day, reduce the incidence of rear-end crashes and improve drainage at the site, which has been prone to flash flooding.

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at www.post-gazette.com/Roundabout. Twitter: @pgtraffic.


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