Southwestern Pennsylvania motorists should prepare for scores of detours, closures, and restrictions this year, including roadwork on the Squirrel Hill Tunnel and the Veterans Bridge.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to work on nearly 170 road and bridge projects in Allegheny, Beaver, and Lawrence Counties in 2012, at a cost of $316.2 million. PennDOT District 11 will also open construction bids for 80 new projects this year.
District 11 Executive Dan Cessna said his office will resurface about 115 miles of state-owned roadways over the course of the year, though that's about 30 miles fewer than he'd hoped.
"We have nineteen landslides going into construction this year. That's the most for us on record, and we've used about $19 million that we've diverted from resurfacing to be able to address those landslides," said Cessna.
Squirrel Hill Tunnel
New ventilation and lighting systems will be installed in the Squirrel Hill Tunnel over the next few years, at an estimated cost of almost $50 million. The drop-down ceiling will be raised to reveal the tunnel's true arched ceiling, much like that of the Liberty Tunnel.
The inbound side of the tunnel will be PennDOT's focus in 2012. Starting in February, PennDOT will restrict that half of the tunnel to one lane on weekday nights, roughly from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM.
In April, a series of eight weekend closures will begin. The westbound side will be entirely closed from late Friday nights until early Monday mornings.
"During that time period, there will be significant work going on inside the tunnel, and on the bridges directly adjacent to the tunnel," said Cessna. He said a detour will take drivers through Squirrel Hill. "Prior to the closures, we will do some resurfacing work on the detour routes to get them in shape for extra interstate traffic."
Details about the exact detour route and weekend closure dates will be announced in the spring.
Veterans Bridge/Fort Pitt Bridge
Work will continue this year on I-579. Upgrades are needed for twenty ramps of the Veterans Bridge and Crosstown Boulevard.
"[The ramps] are going to be detoured and closed at various times, and the main river span will be restricted," said Cessna. "One lane will be closed at a time, and the other two lanes will remain open for traffic."
Cessna said these will be the first major restrictions in the history of the Veterans Bridge, which was erected in the late 1980s. The $36.2 million project started in late 2011 and is expected to finish in October of 2013.
Several ramps of the Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne Bridges will also be resurfaced over the summer and autumn of this year, with about $8.5 million dedicated to that project.
Crews will also continue their work to widen and repave Route 28. Cessna said this year's major projects include the construction of a retaining wall along the hillside.
"Eventually here, later this spring going into summer, you're going to start to see some excavation work, which actually lowers the roadway as they build that wall," explained Cessna. "Eventually, we will shift traffic onto various different elevations; we're going to maintain two lanes inbound, one lane outbound, but it's going to move location."
The $89 million project started in 2009 and is expected to wrap up on Labor Day of 2014.
In Beaver County, two major bridge replacement projects headline PennDOT's work in 2012.
"Pennsylvania Avenue [Bridge] has been under construction for several years. It's going to be completed here in the spring," said Cessna. "New York Avenue [Bridge] in Rochester Borough is going to get underway."
As for Lawrence County, I-376 will be resurfaced between Route 224 and Route 422. The Newcastle Bypass of Route 422 will also be finished this year, according to Cessna.
2012 Proposed Construction Projects — Allegheny County
Click above to download a map of Allegheny County from PennDOT, showing the projects they have planned for the coming year.