Traffic on Route 51 in Overbrook will face shift in lane patterns

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These are times that try the souls of South Hills commuters.

Many of those who fought their way around the first evening rush hour closure of the outbound Liberty Tunnel on Monday found a surprise awaiting them at the construction site at Routes 51 and 88 in Overbrook.

In addition to the northbound traffic shift that took effect on Friday, two turning lanes were eliminated without any announcement from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Southbound traffic on Route 51 formerly had a right-turn lane to reach Route 88. That lane was eliminated in the traffic pattern change on Friday, meaning those headed to Route 88 must stay in the right through-lane until they reach the traffic signal, PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said.

Also, traffic on Route 88 headed to northbound Route 51 has only one left-turn lane. The second has been eliminated. “Our project manager did not think this would be very impactful because only a few vehicles could use the second lane at a time,” Mr. Cowan said.

The traffic pattern will remain in effect at least through the end of the year, he said.

When the $19 million project began last year, PennDOT had hoped to complete it by November 2015, but delays in relocating utilities put the project behind schedule.

The key feature is a northbound jug handle that loops around the Rite Aid property for traffic headed for Route 88 and Glenbury Street, replacing the short left-turn lane that caused backups and rear-end crashes. All northbound traffic has been shifted to the jug handle while the northbound through lanes are rebuilt. Route 88-bound drivers also are using it.

PennDOT expects to keep two lanes open during peak periods in both directions for the duration of the project.

As part of the project, five structurally deficient bridges are being replaced and a new one has been built over Weyman Run to carry traffic to the jug handle. Traffic signals, lighting and sidewalks will be improved, the old signage at the intersection will be replaced, and several traffic cameras will be installed.

On Monday evening farther south on Route 51, PennDOT instituted a new traffic pattern in the construction zone in Jefferson Hills.

Traffic was to be shifted into a single lane in both directions between Worthington Road and the Elizabeth Bridge, continuing into mid-September.

The $5.8 million project includes milling and resurfacing 4.3 miles of Route 51 between the Elizabeth Bridge and Coal Valley Road. Overall work will conclude in December, PennDOT said.

It wasn’t all bad news for South Hills drivers on Monday. Port Authority was able to reopen the Wabash Tunnel for the afternoon commute after it was closed because of a water main break. The HOV restriction was lifted in November, and the reversible tunnel is open to outbound traffic from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays and 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends.

Jon Schmitz:, 412-263-1868 or on Twitter @pgtraffic. First Published July 14, 2014 5:15 PM

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