PennDOT to close Liberty, Squirrel Hill tunnels this weekend

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Add it all up -- a nearly sold out PNC Park, a definitely sold out Consol Energy Center and a large concert crowd at First Niagara Pavilion -- and you'd be looking at the potential for traffic jams.

Throw in an inbound Squirrel Hill Tunnel closure and periodic closures of the Liberty Tunnels and you have the stuff of traffic nightmares.

The Pirates, Penguins, Paisley and PennDOT will make travel an ordeal Saturday for those who don't plan ahead and leave plenty of extra time.

The inbound Squirrel Hill Tunnel will be closed from 9 p.m. today until 5 a.m. Monday, with traffic herded into a single lane and forced off at Edgewood-Swissvale for a detour that follows South Braddock and Forbes avenues through Squirrel Hill.

Tunnel closures during the ongoing $49.5 million rehabilitation project have caused delays at all hours, but Saturday afternoon figures to be especially troublesome, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

"This is definitely a day you're going to want to find an alternate route," spokesman Steve Cowan said.

The Pirates play their division rival Cincinnati Reds at 7:15 p.m. with a postgame concert featuring Kool & the Gang. The game was not sold out as of Thursday, but a large, if not capacity, crowd is expected.

Every seat in Consol Energy Center will be filled for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series matching the Penguins and Boston Bruins. Game time is 8 p.m.

Out at First Niagara Pavilion in Washington County, country singer-songwriter and West Virginia native Brad Paisley performs starting at 7 p.m.

According to PennDOT, using the posted detour the last time the inbound Squirrel Hill Tunnel was closed took an average of 90 minutes.

It is encouraging drivers to consider other options, including exiting at Wilkinsburg (Exit 78) rather than pushing all the way to Edgewood-Swissvale (Exit 77).

Other ways to steer around the gridlock are to use the Pennsylvania Turnpike from Monroeville to either Route 28 at Harmar or Interstate 79 in Cranberry.

As always, PennDOT will post travel times and camera views during the detour on its website, www.dot.state.pa.us/district11 (click the Squirrel Hill Tunnel Rehabilitation Project link on the right).

Mr. Cowan noted that no tunnel closures are planned for the June 7 weekend and the next closure might not come until mid-July.

Demolition of the south portal arch of the Liberty Tunnels will cause several periods of closures starting tonight, as the $18.8 million fourth phase construction continues there. The closures are timed to minimize the impact on those going to the games.

The outbound tunnel will close two hours after the end of the Pirates game tonight and remain closed until 6 a.m. Saturday. It will close again two hours after the end of the Penguins game on Saturday night until 6 a.m. Sunday, and again from 10 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday.

The inbound tunnel will close at 10 p.m. today until 5 p.m. Saturday. It will close again at 10 p.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Monday.

Construction on Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon will limit weekend traffic to one lane in each direction starting at 6 p.m. today.

Southbound traffic will shift to the northbound side from Alfred Street in the business district to the Connor-Gilkeson road intersection until 6 p.m. Saturday, with one lane open both ways. After that, traffic will be moved to the southbound side, continuing in a single-lane pattern until 6 a.m. Monday.

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Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1868 and on Twitter: @pgtraffic. First Published May 30, 2013 2:15 PM


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