Outbound West Carson Street to close for 2 years

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There will be one fewer way to get out of town starting Aug. 2 when the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation closes outbound West Carson Street for a major reconstruction project.

The road will be closed to outbound traffic from the West End Bridge to Stanhope Street in Esplen around the clock for more than two years during the $39 million project that will replace virtually all of the decrepit infrastructure in the 2-mile corridor.

The posted detour will be via the West End Bridge, Route 65 and the McKees Rocks Bridge. Inbound traffic will be maintained in a single lane on West Carson during the work.

The project calls for replacement of a 335-foot viaduct that supports the road north of the Corliss Tunnels intersection, near the Norfolk Southern railroad overpass. It is so badly deteriorated that officials have closed a lane there.

Crumbling pavement, broken sidewalks, rusted railings and antiquated utility lines will be replaced. New lighting, traffic signals and drainage will be installed and retaining walls repaired. The work, and the outbound detour, are scheduled to continue until late August 2015.

PG graphic: Carson Street construction
(Click image for larger version)

Joe Wieseckel, PennDOT constructability review manager, said the department will monitor the detour route, deploy off-duty police at key intersections and adjust traffic signals to try to minimize delays. About 8,000 drivers use outbound West Carson on a typical day and they will join the already congested Route 65 exodus during the afternoon rush.

The project will cause outbound detours for several Port Authority bus routes that use West Carson and the West Busway. There will be no access to the busway entrance at West Carson for outbound buses after the project begins.

Spokeswoman Heather Pharo said the authority's road operations department was reviewing detour operations and details may not be final until next week.

"We expect that all the routes that operate through this corridor will see some fairly significant delays, at least in the first few weeks of the detour while new traffic patterns are being established," she said.

West Carson will remain open to pedestrians throughout the project.

When construction is completed, West Carson will have a modified traffic pattern that features one 14-foot-wide travel lane in both directions, to be shared by motorists and bicyclists. The lanes will have pavement markings called "sharrows" that alert motorists to the presence of bike traffic -- a disappointment to local bike advocates, who pushed for a dedicated lane for cyclists. There will be an additional 10-foot-wide center lane for left turns by outbound traffic.

That differs from the existing pattern, which has two outbound traffic lanes. Steve DeLong, assistant project manager for JMT, which designed the project, said engineers concluded that one outbound lane would accommodate traffic volume while improving safety in the crash-prone corridor.

A new 5-foot-wide sidewalk will be built on the river side of the road from the West End Bridge to the busway entrance. A new pedestrian crossing will be built just beyond the busway, and the sidewalk will shift to the inland side from there to Stanhope Street.

The road will be built lower at the railroad overpass to increase clearance for trucks.

Mr. DeLong said the outbound detour was needed because there will be room for only one lane of flowing traffic during construction.

"It was decided that inbound was more important [to keep open], getting people into town vs. getting them out of town," he said.

A public meeting on the project is scheduled for 5 p.m. next Wednesday at Hays Manor Community Center, 205 Locust St., McKees Rocks. Project officials will provide detailed information on the construction and traffic impacts this year.

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Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Visit The Roundabout, the Post-Gazette's transportation blog, at www.post-gazette.com/roundabout. Twitter: @pgtraffic First Published July 16, 2013 11:00 AM


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