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Development & Transportation

Pittsburghers: Prepare for Lots of Orange Barrels in 2014

The new year will bring the end of two multi-year construction projects, the beginning of a couple of others, and tapping additional funds from the recently passed transportation bill for some bridge work.

Route 28

After four-and-a-half years the $100 million Route 28 construction between Chestnut Street on Pittsburgh’s North Side and Millvale is to be completed in 2014. PennDOT District 11 engineer Dan Cessna said the fifth and final phase involves the demolition of remaining buildings along the hillside south of the 31st Street Bridge, utility line relocation and building a large retaining wall.

“(Then) we will shift traffic back towards the hillside so we can completely reconstruct the roadway (on the railroad side)," Cessmas said. "Then basically that will complete the work from approximately Chestnut Street to just south of the 31st Street Bridge and once that’s completed, you’ll have a Jersey barrier separating inbound from outbound traffic which is going to be a major safety enhancement.”

According to Cessna safety was the top priority for this project. 

“We certainly wanted to enhance mobility," he said. "We wanted to eliminate traffic signals, but if we couldn’t do it without a safe road at the completion, it wouldn’t have been a worthwhile project.”

After three months of free flowing traffic, northbound Route 28 will be reduced to one lane in this construction zone. The project will be wrapped up by the end of November — four years and three months after construction began.

Squirrel Hill Tunnel

The nearly $50 million Squirrel Hill Tunnel Rehabilitation will come to an end by mid-July. Cessna said there will be one inbound tunnel shutdown and one outbound closing as crews resurface the roadway and work on tunnel walls and ceilings to complete the 30-month project.

“As folks travel through the tunnels right now, they look kind of shabby because we don’t have the tile replacement completed yet," he said. "We have most of the lights up in the inbound tunnel and about half of the lights in the outbound tunnel. That work will come to completion through the winter, into the spring and by mid-summer, we’ll have shiny rehabilitated tunnels.”

80,000 motorists use those tunnels daily. 

Parkway West

While Parkway East users will be happy with the completion of the Squirrel Hill Tunnel project, Parkway West motorists will have to gear up for restrictions as rehabilitation work is to begin in July between the Fort Pitt Tunnels and Interstate 79. 

“One of the main safety components of that project is replacing the very deteriorated median barrier," Cessna said. "We’ll also be upgrading and doing safety enhancements to the bridges in that area, improving the shoulders and, ultimately resurfacing the highway.

According to Cessna, to ease congestion, two lanes will be open in each direction during business hours with lane restrictions in place nights and weekends and “we could have some detours.”

That work is to be completed at the end of 2015.

Roadwork in All Directions

The $39 million West Carson Street Viaduct project which began in July will continue in 2014 and not be completed until late August 2015.  That project includes the replacement of a structurally deficient viaduct that supports a portion of Route 51 between the West End Circle and Stanhope Street in the city of Pittsburgh. The work also involves roadway reconstruction, wall and sidewalk rehabilitation, drainage upgrades and signal improvements.

The Route 51/88 interchange in the South Hills will see some major renovation. According to Cessna, the $19 million project involves the replacement of five small bridges, construction of a new bridge, rebuilding the roadway and signal upgrades. Crews will use a “jug handle” roadway to allow traffic to continue flow northbound into the city during the ongoing work which is to be completed by the end of 2014.

More $$$ Equals More Construction

The new statewide transportation funding package will mean an additional $80 million for the Pittsburgh region “allowing us to advance some critical infrastructure projects,” Cessna said.

“The greatest benefit is allowing us to do long range planning — looking at where we can invest money over a 10-year period so we can do a better job scheduling projects and look at an entire corridor so we’re inconveniencing motorists less. We haven’t had the luxury to be able to plan that way because of diminished funding.”

District 11 had been anticipating about $200 million in appropriations for 2014 prior to the additional monies. Cessna said one of the first projects as part of this additional appropriation is a “full rehab of the Birmingham Bridge.”

“ That will replace all the remaining rocker bearings that exist on the bridge, upgrading them to the newest standards," he said. "We will also be doing many steel repairs, fixing any leaking dams on the bridge. We’ll be doing any necessary deck repairs, and we’ll finally do a full repaint of the entire bridge.”