Essential Pittsburgh
10:02 am
Thu March 27, 2014

How to Find Pittsburgh's 'Warp Pipes' and Beat the City's Traffic Choke Points

How to avoid this: Traffic is stopped at a red light approaching the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.
Credit Flickr user daveynin

Pittsburgh's roads can be challenging at times, often leading traffic to a slow and frustrating crawl.

But there are ways to avoid sitting in endless congestion through the Fort Pitt Tunnel.

Inspired by a Reddit conversation paying homage to Nintendo's classic "Super Mario" series, we mapped out some of the city's "warp pipes" — shortcuts, essentially — that much like Mario allow drivers to warp to new worlds (or the South Side, at least) with little hassle.

Please note that some sections of the above paths are residential (such as Gold Way on the "Yellow Path"), and drivers should take care to navigate them lawfully, being especially mindful of pedestrians, cyclists and pets.

Shadyside to the Strip District (Yellow Path)

Bigelow Boulevard or Liberty Avenue are the default routes to the shops of the Strip District, but both streets are notorious for strange traffic and busy lights at peak times. This route nearly cuts driving time in half.

Watch out for:

The most recent addition to this already narrow Gold Way are small speed bumps, but otherwise it’s a perfect little shortcut to avoid Bigelow Boulevard. Herron Avenue can be tricky as the roads in Polish Hill are very narrow and curvy. Pass the Rock Room on left when turning from Melwood to Herron.

Lawrenceville to South Side (Black Path)

Bigelow Boulevard, Liberty Avenue and Penn Avenue are arguably the most well-known routes to East Carson Street. This warp pipe eliminates the downtown trip, which can often be risky on game days or during rush hour.

Watch out for:

The drive to and from Bloomfield/Lawrenceville can be complicated. The Bigelow Boulevard/Bloomfield Bridge/Blessing Street intersection is basically a four-way intersection with lights. Be careful to obey the “No Turn on Red” signs as oncoming traffic cannot be seen from the back left. 

The reverse of this shortcut (from South Side to Lawrenceville) should not be taken during rush hour. The light at the five-way intersection at Herron and Bigelow Boulevard is very long between these peak hours.

South Oakland to Shadyside (Brown Path)

Forbes and Fifth avenues are hit-and-miss routes with the combination of vehicular traffic and a huge pedestrian population. This warp pipe goes "under" CMU and to Shadyside quickly.

Watch out for:

Bikers and runners down South Neville. Hollow Trail parallels much of the road.

Shadyside to South Side (Red Path)

Cutting through the Hill District removes the need to stay on busy Centre, Forbes and Fifth avenues and cuts down a lot of time from the trip. It overlaps the warp pipe from Lawrenceville to the South Side.

Squirrel Hill to South Side (Purple Path)

Second Avenue can be a Pittsburgh driver's best friend. It runs along I-376 for a length and then curves through parts of Oakland, Greenfield and Squirrel Hill, allowing an alternate path from the Parkway and Forbes Avenue.

South Side Flats to Mount Washington (Blue Path)

PJ McArdle Roadway can be confusing, busy and filled with tourists making their way to the Mt. Washington overlooks. Avoid this stress altogether by cutting through the South Side Slopes.

Watch out for:

This warp pipe does go through the slopes. The streets are often steep and can have poor visibility. 

Wabash Tunnel (Maroon Path)

Liberty and Fort Pitt tunnels are hubs of congestion. This tube no longer HOV during the West Carson reconstruction project until 2015. It has limited hours, but it provides a great shortcut.

Do you have suggestions for more warp pipes? Tweet us @esspgh or email us at esspgh@wesa.fm