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Warhol Bridge Nears Closure, Several Major Projects To Continue Into 2017

Matt Nemeth
90.5 WESA


The Andy Warhol Bridge is about to undergo its most extensive rehabilitation since the early 1990s.

“A bridge usually lasts about 25 years between rehabs and minor work has been done in between,” said Mike Dillon, deputy director of public works for Allegheny County.

Also known as the Seventh Street Bridge, the 1,061-foot-long span will be shut down completely on Aug. 15 for 14 months for installation of a new concrete deck, structural steel repairs, painting and upgrades to its drainage system.

The rehabilitation work will cost $25.4 million — 80 percent coming from the federal government, 15 percent from the state and 5 percent from the county. The original cost of building the bridge was $1.5 million. 

In April, PennDOT began a two-year, $80 million rehabilitation of the Liberty Bridge. However, that span didn’t shut down as workers go lane-to-lane replacing the bridge deck. So, was keeping the Warhol Bridge open but with lane restrictions an option?

“The Liberty Bridge sees 60,000 vehicles per day; this bridge sees 5,500,” Dillon said. “Also we have the Roberto Clemente Bridge and the Rachel Carson Bridge which are literally about 300 feet away upstream and downstream, which are capable of handling the traffic.”

Dillon said keeping the bridge open during construction would mean a longer time frame and higher costs.

“We will be adding additional police officers and working with timing of the intersections for the traffic signals through the area to help traffic flow.”

Other suggested alternatives include the David McCullough (16th Street) Bridge or the Fort Duquesne Bridge. Adding to the congestion, the Clemente Bridge will still be closed to vehicular traffic prior to and after Pirates home games. 

The Warhol is the oldest of the “3 Sister Bridges” that link the North Side with downtown Pittsburgh having opened June 17, 1926.  The Ninth Street Bridge, now known as the Rachel Carson Bridge, opened three months later, and the Sixth Street Bridge (Clemente Bridge) was dedicated in 1928.

According to Dillon, the project is expected to last at least until November 17, 2017.  However, commuters won’t be able to breathe a sigh of relief.  He said similar year-and-a-half long rehab projects begin on the Rachel Carson Bridge in 2018 and then the Clemente Bridge in 2020.

Other Orange Barrel Updates:

Parkway West (Interstate 376)

First the good news: overnight closures on the Parkway West between I-79 and the Fort Pitt Tunnels will last just two more weeks. Cowan said crews will install new message boards and that will conclude major work on that stretch of I-376.

In a related but separate project, paving inside the Fort Pitt Tunnel has been completed leaving just a few additional items including a water line improvement.

“There are a few that are coming to a close here which makes me very happy,” Cowan said.

But 15 miles down from the tunnels on the Parkway West, crews are preparing for a crossover configuration where one lane of westbound traffic will be crossed over into the eastbound lane to create an “express lane,” but all exits from that lane will be closed to motorists.  The remaining westbound lane will be for local traffic and have access to each exit. 

It’s part of the $67 million, two-year reconstruction of 7.5 miles of I-376 from just east of the airport interchange to Beaver County. That project is expected to wrap up in the fall of 2017.

Liberty Bridge

Work continues on phase three of the concrete deck replacement of the 90-year-old Liberty Bridge. Crews are replacing the deck one lane at a time and are now working on the left, outbound lane. According to PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan, the traffic patterns on the bridge are changed three times a day: one lane in each direction overnight; two lanes inbound and one outbound during the mornings; and, two lanes outbound, one inbound in the afternoon.

“As motorists come out of the city heading outbound in the afternoons, the work zone will split those two lanes,” Cowan said.

The fourth and final lane of the deck replacement will begin in late August or early September. Phase four also involves the closure and renovation of the ramp from the Boulevard of the Allies to the outbound Liberty Bridge.

Cowan said after a winter break, work should begin in early spring on steel structural repairs and a repainting of the bridge. The $80 million project is expected to finish in August 2017.

Route 65

A major rehabilitation of State Route 65 (Ohio River Boulevard) continues with milling and resurfacing of the roadway between the Fort Duquesne and McKees Rocks bridges.

According to Cowan, the short detour route that takes motorists off of southbound Route 65 onto Beaver Avenue before getting them back onto 65 continues through mid-September. 

Lane restrictions will continue in the southbound direction through November. The Reedsdale tunnel/ramp near Heinz Field opened Friday. Northbound work on 65 will begin next year and is expected to be completed in mid-summer 2017.