Transportation
8:00 am
Mon January 2, 2012

Major Road Construction in Pittsburgh in 2012

Whether traveling east, west, north, or south, into or out of the city of Pittsburgh, motorists will likely be impacted by major roadwork in 2012. PennDOT District 11 (Allegheny and Beaver Counties) has at least three multi-year construction projects on the schedule for the new year: Route 28, Crosstown Boulevard/Veterans' Bridge, and the Squirrel Hill Tunnels on Interstate 376.

PennDOT spokesman Jim Struzzi said that the department is looking forward to another productive year after a busy 2011.

"It was a different kind of summer with the wet spring. A lot of projects started a little later than we would have liked," Struzzi said. "Overall, it was a good construction season. We did achieve a lot of good things for the traveling public."

According to Struzzi, work is continuing on some projects into early winter as good weather permits, but not for resurfacing because of cold temperatures. "We don't permit certain types of paving depending on your asphalt mix," Struzzi said.

Route 28 Widening Continues

Work will continue throughout the winter on the Route 28 expansion project between Millvale and East Ohio Street on the city's North Side. PennDOT's contractors will continue excavation and wall building between the Heinz plant and the 40th Street Bridge to widen Route 28.

"That type of work can continue unless we have an inordinate amount of snowfall that covers the ground," Struzzi said.

This $36.4 million phase is the largest of the overall project, which will cost more than $84 million. Ir will widen the roadway to create a non-stop graded interchange at the 31st Street Bridge.

To widen Route 28, crews have been moving the railroad tracks that run parallel to the road closer to the Allegheny River. "We've been able to push 28 further toward the river. When I say widening, it's also good to note to remind people it's still going to be two lanes in each direction," Struzzi said. One of the most important aspects of the widening is that we're going to put Jersey barriers — center median barriers — down Route 28 to separate both directions of travel."

The PennDOT spokesman said that work to construct the new interchange at the 31st Street Bridge will begin in the spring. The final phase of the widening project will be from St. Nicholas Church to the Heinz plant. All of the work on Route 28 is to be completed by late 2014.

According to Struzzi, from September 6 through the end of the project, traffic will be limited to one lane outbound and 2 lanes inbound from the 40th Street Bridge to the Chestnut Street overpass.

Crosstown Work Moves to Veterans' Bridge

Contractors are scheduled to complete the two-year, $18.7 million rehabilitation of the Crosstown Boulevard and Veterans' Bridge (I-579) in 2012. The first phase began in July and was completed in November with construction on many of the ramps connecting the Liberty Bridge to the Crosstown and ramps and overpasses in the area of the Civic Arena.

"[In 2012] we will begin the actual Veterans' Bridge itself, the roadways approaching the bridge, the bridge itself across the Allegheny River, and the ramps connecting to Route 28 and the Parkway North (I-279)," Struzzi said.

Crews will perform deck repairs and replacement as well as repairs to structural steel and concrete, replacing bearings, repairing the drainage system, retrofitting pins and hangers, and upgrading lighting and signage. The work is to conclude in late fall.

Inbound Squirrel Tunnel to Close on Weekends

A multi-year renovation of the 56-year-old Squirrel Hill Tunnels on Interstate 376 gets underway in the spring. "[This is] a much-needed rehabilitation project of the tunnel that will put a new lighting system, new ventilation system, resurfacing of the interior of the tunnel," Struzzi said.

The $50-55 million project includes repairs to the tunnel walls, removal of the ceiling and increasing clearance, repairs to the arched roof, removal and replacement of wall tiles, repairs to the concrete surface, milling and resurfacing the tunnel roadway, repairs to the drainage system and leaking expansion joints, new temperature and carbon monoxide monitors, and new cameras.

All of that work will impact the 35,000 drivers who use the Squirrel Hill Tunnels both ways each weekday. "There will be weekend closures one direction only, at least eight of them in 2012 (westbound, inbound) and then eight of them (eastbound, outbound) the following year," Struzzi said.

In addition, there will be overnight single lane traffic in the tunnel, and on weekends that are not scheduled for full closure, there will be single lane traffic from Friday night to Monday morning. Work is to be finished by winter 2015.

Money for Major Projects Running Out

PennDOT's 2012 schedule also includes rehabbing the ramps that connect the Fort Pitt Bridge and the Parkway East (I-376) in downtown Pittsburgh. Work should be complete on Route 65 at the Marshall Avenue interchange on the North Side this summer, "so we're looking at a good construction season, so motorists should be prepared," Struzzi said.

But after 2012? According to Struzzi, funding for capital improvement projects has been on the decrease for about two years.

"I know there's a lot of discussion about funding transportation, which is really essential to our infrastructure here in western Pennsylvania, because we have aging bridges and roadways and they need a lot of attention," Struzzi said. "Yes, this is going to be a good year. 2011 was a good year. 2012 is going to be a good year, but after that it declines significantly."