The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will begin nighttime restrictions of the inbound Squirrel Hill Tunnel on Monday. It's part of the preliminary stage of a two-year, $49.5 million rehabilitation project.
District Executive Dan Cessna said crews will focus on the inbound half of the structure this year. In 2013, the repair work — and accompanying traffic restrictions — will move over to the outbound side.
The inbound side will be winnowed down to one lane from 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM each night from Monday to Thursday. On Friday and Saturday nights, one-lane restrictions will remain in effect from 10:00 PM until 10:00 AM the next day.
The inbound tunnel is also scheduled to close entirely for an entire weekend eight times from July to October this year. As a detour, drivers will exit the Parkway East at Edgewood/Swissvale and get onto South Braddock Avenue. From there, motorists will turn left onto Forbes Avenue, turn left again onto Murray Avenue, and rejoin the parkway.
"While the detour is underway, we'll certainly be monitoring all the intersections with off-duty police officers and the like to help move traffic, but we can't underestimate the impact that those detours have," said Cessna. "Traffic is significant during those detours."
Cessna said detour routes and times are subject to change depending on the road work at hand.
PennDOT will repave the detour roads between now and April to prepare them for heavier traffic this summer, but Cessna said it may be best for motorists to avoid the area altogether when the detour routes take effect.
"Please, plan ahead when you're traveling. Be patient, and take those alternate routes," said Cessna. "Go the other direction to the city when it's possible, and don't get yourself caught in a detour, because it could add significant travel time."
The rehabilitation project will update the tunnel's electrical and ventilation systems. The ceiling will be raised a foot or two, the roadway will be repaved, and damage to the walls will be repaired. It's the first major renovation of the tunnel in almost 30 years.