While traditional harbingers of spring continue to cower in semi-frozen soil, orange barrels are beginning to blossom.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will close the outbound Squirrel Hill Tunnel for the weekend starting tonight, the first of several planned shutdowns as a $49.5 million rehabilitation project continues.
Part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Allegheny County will close for five hours early Sunday for bridge demolition, and work will resume April 1 at Broughton and Baptist roads in Bethel Park, causing a one-way closure on Broughton.
The outbound tunnel closure starts at 11 p.m. and will force traffic to merge into a single lane and exit at Squirrel Hill-Homestead (Exit 74). The posted detour during the day follows Forward Avenue to a left on Beechwood Boulevard, right on Forbes Avenue and right on South Braddock Avenue to the Edgewood-Swissvale on-ramp.
PennDOT asks drivers to use Murray Avenue rather than Beechwood Boulevard after 8 p.m.
Previous closures have caused delays of up to two hours on the parkway and along the detour route. PennDOT urged drivers to consider alternate routes. One option is to exit onto Forbes Avenue in Oakland, go left at South Bellefield Avenue, right at Fifth Avenue and right on Penn Avenue, continuing through Wilkinsburg to the Forest Hills on-ramp.
The closure will allow crews to begin removing the tunnel ceiling and continue rehabilitation of the outbound parkway bridge over Commercial Street. The inbound tunnel will be open, but traffic may be stopped briefly during movement of construction equipment.
The outbound tunnel will reopen by 6 a.m. Monday. Three more outbound closures are tentatively planned for the weekends of April 5-8, 19-22 and 26-29 and additional inbound or outbound closures will occur as the project moves toward its scheduled completion early in summer 2014.
After the weekend, nighttime single-lane closures in both directions will continue starting at 9 p.m. daily on the inbound side and 11 p.m. outbound.
The PennDOT District 11 website, www.dot.state.pa.us/district11, has a link to more information about the project, including traffic cameras on the detour route that will operate while the outbound tunnel is closed. The site also posts estimated detour travel times.
The turnpike will be closed in both directions between Butler Valley (Exit 39) and Allegheny Valley (Exit 48) from 11:59 p.m. Saturday until 5 a.m. Sunday to allow for demolition of the bridge carrying Middle Road over the turnpike. It was closed March 11 for replacement. The detour uses Routes 8 and 28.
Work on the $3.9 million expansion project at Broughton and Baptist roads in Bethel Park will resume April 1, weather permitting, PennDOT announced.
Starting at 7 a.m. that day, and continuing around the clock through mid-October, eastbound Broughton Road will be closed from Paxton to Sansue drives, the same closure as during last year's work. Westbound Broughton Road will have one lane open between Paxton and Sansue. Baptist Road will remain open. The project will be completed in the fall.
A bridge replacement project has reduced traffic to one lane in both directions on Interstate 79 and Route 422 at their interchange in Muddycreek, Butler County. The restrictions will continue into late fall.