4 years of work to tie up Route 28
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A long-awaited $120 million project to transform Route 28 from the North Side to Millvale will begin next month, stretching over more than four years.
For most of that time, outbound traffic will be restricted to one lane, with two lanes kept open inbound, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials said Wednesday.
When the last of the work is done in the fall of 2014, traffic will flow through new interchanges at the 31st and 40th street bridges, with no traffic signals on the highway mainline. The inbound and outbound sides will be separated by barriers rather than thin yellow stripes.
"This is THE project people in the Pittsburgh region have been waiting for," PennDOT District 11 Executive Dan Cessna said. "It's here. It's getting started. It's going to take a while. But it's going to happen. When it's done it'll be amazing."
In the meantime, there will be lots of inconvenience, including full closures of the 31st Street Bridge and Rialto Street for nearly three years.
The first impact will be felt next month, when construction begins from about a quarter-mile north of the 31st Street Bridge to a half-mile north of the 40th Street Bridge, reducing outbound traffic to a single lane.
That pattern -- one lane outbound and two inbound -- will be in place for most if not all of the next four years.
PennDOT has spent more than $2 million for traffic cameras on Route 28 and improvements to a suggested alternate route through Lawrenceville, via the 16th Street Bridge, Liberty Avenue, Butler Street and the 40th Street Bridge.
Among the improvements are wider intersections, retimed traffic signals and a new signal system at Doughboy Square at 34th and Butler streets.
Mr. Cessna said it was not practical for PennDOT to fully close Route 28 during the project. Total closure might have shaved a year off the construction timetable but "there's just no logical detour," he said. "Where would everybody go?"
About 60,000 vehicles use the highway on a typical day.
The 31st Street Bridge and Rialto Street, an alternate route to Troy Hill, will be closed in the fall of 2011 through the summer of 2014, as construction moves into the 31st Street intersection. Several spans at the end of the bridge that were not fixed when the bridge was closed for renovation in 2006 and 2007 will be torn down and replaced.
During the bridge closing, the only access to Washington's Landing will be via River Avenue.
That is necessary for creation of a "grade-separated" interchange that will keep mainline traffic flowing without traffic lights. The Route 28 mainline will be lowered more than 20 feet, with ramps up to the bridge.
When all of the work is done, full access will be provided to Rialto Street, including northbound traffic that will be able to use the new interchange to turn left there. That brought applause from about 100 residents who attended a briefing on the project at North Catholic High School.
Mr. Cessna called the project an "amazing engineering feat" and said "it's going to be quite an experience for people to watch."
The affected section of Route 28 once carried the nickname "death stretch" because of numerous head-on collisions. Transportation planners first recommended improvements in 1963, but funding issues, controversy and other priorities have stalled the project.
Mr. Cessna said all of the funding needed to complete the project has been programmed.
When the work begins next month, outbound motorists will face a few months of double trouble, as a single-lane restriction continues at Etna until December.
First Published July 15, 2010 12:00 am