If you are among the estimated 34.8 million Americans who are traveling for the Memorial Day weekend, you'll be able to get there through the Squirrel Hill Tunnels.
As is standard holiday practice, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will suspend most construction for the weekend, with the only restrictions being at fixed-in-place work zones like those on Routes 28 and 65 in Pittsburgh and Interstate 79 in Muddycreek, Butler County.
Next weekend, things will return to abnormal with a scheduled closing of the inbound-westbound tunnel and a detour through Squirrel Hill.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike halted all road work as of 3 p.m. Thursday. America's First Superhighway expects to host about 2 million vehicles, with slowdowns and backups possible during peak periods.
The turnpike has a hands-free, eyes-free smartphone app that keeps motorists informed of possible hazards and jams. Called TripTALK, it is activated by a driver before starting travel and delivers audio alerts of any trouble ahead. The free app is available at www.paturnpike.com/triptalk.
Turnpike users will be able to do a little time-traveling thanks to last week's reopening of the South Midway service plaza in Bedford County. Unlike previous service plaza renovations, this one retained the exterior appearance of the original facility that opened nearly 73 years ago.
Stand outside, you're back in 1940. Go inside, and you're transported to the present in an expanded and modernized interior. "The facade looks identical to its ancestor. But the restored South Midway is more spacious with amenities such as a food court, more food selections, contemporary restroom facilities and some unique features that pay homage to its origins," said turnpike chief operating officer Craig Shuey.
And then it's back again to the past, with displays of service plaza memorabilia, restored wood-and-copper fireplaces, photos of old service plazas, video screens showing turnpike history and a chunk of concrete from the original turnpike. The plaza is on the eastbound side at mile 147, a mile east of the Bedford interchange.
The turnpike also reopened the eastbound Highspire service plaza in Dauphin County this month. Both plazas had been closed since September for renovations. Fourteen of the 17 service plazas have now been refurbished.
For those headed west, the service plazas on the Ohio Turnpike a few miles from the Pennsylvania line reopened this week after construction that took more than two years. The westbound Mahoning Valley plaza and eastbound Glacier Hills plaza are at mile 237.
AAA's traditional holiday travel projection calls for a nearly 1 percent decrease in the numbers of people going at least 50 miles. Last year, 35.1 million Americans did so over Memorial Day weekend. Of those traveling, 31.2 million will be in motor vehicles, and in Western Pennsylvania they will find gasoline about 18 cents per gallon cheaper than last year at this time, at just under $3.49 per gallon.
For those staying home, the weather is expected to be tasty, if not quite warm enough for fun and frolic at the swimming pool. The National Weather Service says Saturday through Monday will be mostly sunny, with highs ranging from 65 to 72.
Port Authority will operate holiday service Monday. Customer service phones will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Downtown Service Center will be closed.