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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Happy 2016: More Orange Barrels And Road Restrictions On Their Way


The 90-year old structurally deficient Liberty Bridge will undergo its first major renovation in 30 years starting in April.

“It’s due,” said state Department of Transportation District Executive Dan Cessna.

The work on the Liberty Bridge is one of four major projects for PennDOT in 2016. Others involve completion of the Fort Pitt Tunnel improvement, Interstate 376 reconstruction near Pittsburgh International Airport and rehabbing a section of State Route 65, just north of the city.

Liberty Bridge

“We’re going to be replacing the entire deck of the [Liberty] Bridge, doing structural steel repairs and doing a full repaint. Obviously to replace the deck on a major river crossing is going to require traffic restrictions, and unfortunately they’re going to be long-term restrictions for motorists,” Cessna said.

Crews will have two lanes open inbound for the morning rush hour and one lane outbound, and the reverse for afternoon rush hour. On the other lane, they will replace the bridge deck in sections, he said.

Cessna advised motorists to “pay attention, because we’ll be switching traffic in the middle of the day.”

According to PennDOT, an estimated 52,000 vehicles cross the Liberty Bridge daily. The $80 million project is expected to be completed in August 2017.

Fort Pitt Tunnel

During the spring and summer months, PennDOT will complete the $14.2 million Fort Pitt Tunnel improvement project. Crews have removed the tunnel ceiling, as well as repaired walls and air ducts, updated the electrical system and improved drainage. 

Beginning in late March or early April, resurfacing work will be done on the roadway inside the tunnel.

“When you do a major ceiling removal and replacement, it does damage to the pavement,” Cessna said. 

The work will require two full weekend closures of the tunnel as well as restrictions for several other weekends until August.

“For the most part, we’ll be coordinating those closures and restrictions with the Liberty Bridge [construction restrictions] so as to keep the ingress and egress out of the city as practical as possible.”

Interstate 376 (Parkway West)

About 15 miles to the west of the Fort Pitt Tunnel, PennDOT will begin a full concrete reconstruction on 7.5 miles of I-376 in the spring. The work stretches from one-half mile east of the airport interchange to approximately one-half mile into Beaver County. The Economy Grade Road Bridge will also be replaced.

Improvements to the interstate and ramps will be made at several interchanges throughout that corridor. Cessna said crews will maintain two lanes of traffic in each direction. 

“We’ll have a local and an express lane, so that if you’re just traveling in one direction or the other, you would just use the express lane, and you would need to get into the local lane if you want to take exits," he said. "Maintaining two lanes in each direction, we have to crossover some traffic.”

Cessna said the work will not require the full weekend closures that I-376 incurred this past summer near the Carnegie interchange.

That $67 million dollar project is expected to be finished in the fall of 2017.

PA Route 65

State Route 65 (Ohio River Boulevard) will undergo a major rehabilitation with milling and resurfacing of the roadway between the Fort Duquesne Bridge and the McKees Rocks Bridge. 

Cessna said work will also be done on the small bridges that weren’t replaced as part of the Marshall Avenue interchange work that was completed in late 2013.

Traffic will be restricted to two lanes between the West End and Fort Duquesne bridges, “but there will be times between the West End Bridge and the McKees Rocks Bridge where we will have traffic restricted to one lane [in each direction]. So we would expect there could be delays for motorists.”

Construction is slated to begin in the spring and wrapped up by mid-summer 2017.

Greenfield Bridge

While PennDOT is working on those projects, the City of Pittsburgh will begin replacing the 94-year-old Beechview Boulevard Bridge, or Greenfield Bridge, that crews imploded earlier this week.

The new $19 million span, connecting Greenfield and Schenley Park, will include a 10-foot-wide sidewalk on the southbound side with a shared 14-foot traffic and bike lane and a middle 11-foot lane.  The northbound side will feature a 5-foot-wide bike lane and an 11-foot traffic lane.

The expected completion date is spring 2017.