The Palm Garden Bridge over Route 51 will reopen to light-rail traffic Sept. 2 following six months of repairs that inconvenienced thousands of transit riders south of Downtown.
Buses on 15 routes will continue to detour over Mount Washington for about another month, however, because the West Liberty ramp and the busway overpass of West Liberty Avenue are not yet finished.
Before the $9.4 million rehabilitation began in early March, 1,400 trolleys a week crossed the 30-year-old concrete-and-steel structure spanning Route 51 near the Liberty Tunnels.
"With the exception of a few tweaks in light-rail service, everything will go back to normal," authority spokesman Bob Grove said of T service.
The restoration of light-rail service comes earlier than advertised. Schedules for temporary bus and rail service had warned that the bridges would be closed through late November.
Since the reopening occurs over the Labor Day weekend, most people won't experience the change until Tuesday, Sept. 4, when businesses, offices and classes return to normal.
The tweaks consist of ending the 44L Library Short route provided during construction and adding a 42C Castle Shannon-Beechview route -- two-car trains that will operate weekdays every 10 minutes from 5:40 to 8:30 a.m. and 3:10 to 5:20 p.m. They will operate via Beechview between Downtown and Overbrook Junction, located between Castle Shannon station and the Willow stop.
"With the two-car trains, capacity will increase dramatically and help out with people who couldn't get seats," Mr. Grove said, referring mainly to inbound trolleys already packed with riders before they reach Beechview and other stops within city limits.
The bridge project meant thousands of trolley riders had to walk farther, take a bus or transfer. Fifteen bus routes were affected. Most buses were detoured over Mount Washington via Arlington and Warrington avenues.
In addition to rehabilitating the Palm Garden Bridge, deteriorated after years of buses and trolleys sharing the same two-lane structure, the Port Authorit is repairing the bus ramps to and from West Liberty Avenue and part of the rail system to the Dawn and Traymore stops.
In addition to light-rail changes that officially go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Sept. 2, the authority will make minor schedule, stop and routing adjustments on a number of bus routes. The adjustments are made every three months and comply with union requirements about picking job assignments based on seniority.
Correction/Clarification: (Published Aug. 23, 2007) While the Palm Garden Bridge over Route 51 will be reopened and South Hills light-rail service will return to normal on Sept. 2, 15 bus routes that shared the bridge prior to its rehabilitation will continue to be detoured for about another month. The Port Authority said it will take that long to finish similar repairs on the West Liberty Avenue ramp and the South Busway West Liberty Avenue overpass that buses use to and from the Palm Garden Bridge. This story as originally published Aug. 22, 2007 omitted the fact that buses would continue to be detoured.
Joe Grata can be reached at email@example.com .