The most recent phase of the $36 million Crosstown Boulevard/Veterans Bridge Preservation Projects is causing morning rush hour traffic snarls for North Hills and Bigelow Boulevard commuters, and officials are looking at ways to ease the congestion.
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) spokesman Jim Struzzi says contractors began work Monday to replace expansion dams on the bridge that connects Bigelow Boulevard to 6th Avenue and southbound I-579 to the downtown Pittsburgh area. The work has closed the ramp from Bigelow to 6th Avenue as well as the right lane of the bridge that carries Bigelow over I-579 (Crosstown Boulevard) until September 25. Signs are posted guiding motorists to use the Bloomfield Bridge, make a left onto Liberty Avenue, and continue downtown.
In addition, the ramp off the Veterans Bridge to 6th and 7th Avenues has been reduced from three lanes to one. That has backed up traffic on the ramp to the Veterans Bridge from southbound I-279 and onto that interstate, plus onto the ramp from southbound Route 28 to the Veterans Bridge and Route 28 itself.
"Our goal is first to complete the work and parallel [to that] to minimize the impact that work has on the traveling public," Struzzi said.
Struzzi said when they plan construction work they anticipate how traffic is going to react to restrictions.
"Often it doesn't occur the way you thought it would," Struzzi said. "Typically during the first couple of days you implement a closure like this, we'll monitor traffic, see what people do, how they react to it, what the problems are, and then we'll try to make any adjustments we can to alleviate those problems."
PennDOT officials are meeting with contractors today to discuss options. Struzzi wouldn't say whether that included opening the HOV lanes of I-279 inbound to all traffic.
The work and restrictions continue for two more weeks. "Anytime you're impacting traffic to this extent you want to do what you can even if it's for a day or two to help ease the headaches people are having coming into the city."