Final Squirrel Hill Tunnel closure scheduled this weekend


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The Squirrel Hill Tunnel rehabilitation project is 90 percent finished and on track for completion next month, but drivers are going to have to endure one more weekend closure.

And starting next week, a major reconstruction project is scheduled to begin on the Parkway West.

The outbound Squirrel Hill Tunnel will close at 10 p.m. Friday and all traffic will be forced into a single lane to exit at Squirrel Hill-Homestead (Exit 74) for a detour on neighborhood streets. It will reopen by 6 a.m. Monday. As with previous tunnel closures, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is warning drivers of long backups on the parkway and detour routes and urging people to find alternate routes.

This closure brings a couple of added challenges: the 2014 P&G Gymnastics Championships, a national event, are being held at Consol Energy Center all weekend. And more than 2,000 people will crowd into the Regent Square neighborhood, which is along the posted detour route, for Run Around the Square, a 5K footrace.

“There’s always something happening in the city of Pittsburgh,” PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said. “While we don’t like to impact anyone, when we do projects of this nature, it’s going to impact somebody.”

The following two weekends were off-limits for a tunnel closure because of the Labor Day holiday and the Steelers’ season opener.

The closure will allow the contractor to pave the tunnel, place tiles, work on a water line and clean sandstone and brick at the tunnel portal, Mr. Cowan said. The inbound tunnel will be open, but traffic may be stopped briefly as equipment is moved.

The posted daytime detour follows Forward Avenue, Beechwood Boulevard, Forbes Avenue and South Braddock Avenue. After 8 p.m., PennDOT is asking motorists to use Murray Avenue rather than Beechwood Boulevard. Past tunnel closures have caused delays of up to two hours.

An alternate detour is to exit from the outbound parkway at Forbes Avenue in Oakland (Exit 72A) and follow Forbes, South Bellefield, Fifth and Penn avenues to reach the parkway on-ramp at Forest Hills. The PennDOT District 11 website will display estimated travel times and traffic camera views from the posted detour route during the tunnel closure.

Mr. Cowan said the three-year, $49.5 million project remains on track for completion by late next month.

Work on a $72.8 million reconstruction of the Parkway West will begin next week with restriping of both sides of the highway between Rosslyn Farms and a point 1,500 feet east of the Carnegie interchange, he said. Lanes will be narrowed in that section to allow placement of a concrete barrier to separate traffic from the shoulder reconstruction that will be the first part of the project. The project will reconstruct the parkway in both directions from Interstate 79 to the Fort Pitt Tunnel.

The schedule hasn’t been finalized, but two lanes of traffic will be maintained during peak hours and a single-lane pattern will be in effect at night, Mr. Cowan said.

Also looming is a project to remove the deteriorated ceilings in the Fort Pitt Tunnel. That will cause four inbound and four outbound weekend tunnel closures on dates to be determined, Mr. Cowan said. Work may begin in late September.

The Parkway West and the Fort Pitt Tunnel projects will continue through next year, and the tunnel project will continue into spring 2016, when both sides will be repaved.

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868.


First Published August 19, 2014 2:21 PM

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