Josh Hallett

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and state and local law enforcement are teaming up over the holiday weekend to crack down on alcohol- and drug-impaired driving. 

The “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign is ramping up nationally, increasing checkpoints and roving patrols across the state.

PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick says the holiday excitement often leads to bad decisions behind the wheel.

Polish Hill Civic Association

Residents of Pittsburgh’s Polish Hill neighborhood have long fought for traffic-calming measures on Melwood Avenue, which many drivers regard as a convenient shortcut from Shadyside and East Liberty to either the Strip District or Bigelow Boulevard.

But speed bumps and signs directing motorists to slow down are doing little to prevent thousands of cars from detouring through the residential area at rush hour due to construction on Baum and Craig.

A National Acrobat / flickr

UPDATE 8/26/15:

As of 8:00 am PennDOT has  postponed the work for 24 hours.  The project is now slated to begin Thursday Aug. 27.


Getting from Oakland to Bloomfield will get a bit harder starting Wednesday morning. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is closing Baum and Bigelow (officially designated as PA Route 380) boulevards from Melwood Avenue to the Bloomfield Bridge for an estimated 91 days.

Matt York / Associated Press

With the back-to-school season upon us, many are starting to mourn the end of summer, but there are at least a couple months of warm and mild weather ahead – which is perfect motorcycle weather.

“Summer riding season for motorcyclists runs roughly from April to October.” This is when we see the majority of motorcyclists on our roadways,” said Juliann Sheldon, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam

The nation’s oldest state law enforcement agency is in need of recruits. The Pennsylvania State Police are looking for qualified candidates to fill a growing number of vacant positions. However, attracting more men and women to consider careers as troopers has been difficult. Corporal Brian Carpenter says he thinks recent new events involving police and the public have deterred many applicants: 

"I think that some times even the good people say 'I don't know if I'm willing to go ahead and make the sacrifices that it takes to become a Pennsylvania State Trooper.'" - Corporal Brian Carpenter  


In the past five years, 128 people have lost their lives in work zone crashes, and PennDOT’s “#Slow4Zone” campaign hopes to put a face to road workers to prevent more lost lives.

The campaign starts during National Work Zone Awareness Week from March 23-27. During the week PennDOT will be posting stories on their Facebook and Twitter pages of workers who have been a victim of or seen work zone crashes.

Motorists who use the I-376 Carnegie Interchange Ramps will soon have to kiss that exit goodbye until December. Starting Monday at 10 p.m. PennDOT will close the exit to begin work on three structurally deficient bridges.

“Overnight when they do the closure there will be …impacts on traffic, but after the interchange is completely closed and all lanes of traffic are restored we’ll actually improve traffic flow in that area,” said PennDOT District Executive Dan Cessna.  


Some Pennsylvanians will be receiving new driver’s licenses after PennDOT officials learned Wednesday a vendor error led to security flaws in more than 100,000 cards.

According to PennDOT, the laminate supplied by Morpho Trust USA and its subcontractor OpSec, did not include the correct hidden security image. Viewed under an ultraviolet black light, proper licenses show a row of keystones with the letters “PA.” The defective cards read “AP” instead.

Parkway West Construction to Resume Soon

Feb 9, 2015

PennDOT officials and representatives of contractor Swank Construction will hold two public meetings this week to give information and answer questions about upcoming construction on the Parkway West.

The $72.83 million I-376 project began last summer and will resume next month. The plans call for major improvements to the parkway from I-79 to the Fort Pitt Tunnel including repaving, rebuilding and resurfacing shoulders, improving drainage, replacing guardrails and concrete barriers, adding road signs and rehabilitating bridges.

Within the next three years, 558 bridges throughout Pennsylvania will be replaced.

PennDOT announced Monday that it had finalized the terms for its Rapid Bridge Replacement Project.

“The construction and some of the maintenance will cost roughly $899 million,” said PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt. “But we’re expecting to save a good bit for each bridge compared to if we were going through our typical process, and it’s happening much faster than it normally would.”

A road is being built over land that can be mined for coal, and a lawyer is trying to figure out how his client will be compensated.

Robert Lightcap is an attorney for Penn Pocahantas Coal Company which owns approximately 16 blocks of coal covering several thousand acres in Somerset County where Route 219 is being constructed.

The highway will go over the coal reserves owned by his client.

Some of the coal is in release to PBS Coals. They already had a planned, permitted mine in place. Lightcap says acres of coal will be lost because of the road project.

For the seventh consecutive year Pennsylvania turnpike tolls will increase on Jan. 4.

The 5 percent increase affects both EZPass users and cash payers, but the EZPass will still save customers about 35 percent. Right now a person traveling from Pittsburgh (Monroeville) to Breezewood pays $8.97 with an EZPass or $12.60 with cash, and these prices will rise to $9.42 and $13.23 respectively.

Major roadway projects were completed this past year in the Pittsburgh area, but several others will get underway or continue in 2015.

“2014 was a significant year,” said Dan Cessna, District 11 executive for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. “We completed the fourth phase of Liberty Tunnel. We completed Squirrel Hill Tunnels, and most significantly we wrapped up four years of construction on Route 28.”

Phil Quinn / wikipedia

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back on 2014 and airing some of the Essential Pittsburgh stories that were most popular on our website,

To hear the full-length audio for this story, please refer to the original post.

Pittsburgh has some pretty unique topography as far as cities go. It’s basically a peninsula with mountains. With the city’s bridges and its triangular shape, there were many questions to be asked about why the roads aren't more efficient. Traffic and road layouts are the focus of the popular blog, Nonsensical Roads of Pittsburgh, run by Phil Anderson.

“You can consider all of the challenges of the mountainous cities out west, of some of the older cities in the east, and I by far find the most confusing situations here in western Pennsylvania.”

After Phil offered his take on Pittsburgh’s roads as a driver, we heard from two transportation experts: Patrick Hassett, assistant director of the Pittsburgh Public Works Department overseeing the Bureau of Transportation, and Dan Cessna, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's local district executive.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has released a draft of its long-range transportation plan and is asking for public feedback.

“This is a plan that looks far into the future to help set the vision and direction for where we want our transportation system to go,” said PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt. “So it goes beyond a list of projects or future enhancements. It looks at things like where we want to go as a whole.”

After five years of reconfiguration and reconstruction, PA Route 28 reopens completely Monday.

The five-phase project, which started in 2009, rebuilt the road from Millvale to the North Side and cost $106,360,957, according to PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan.

“This project has been decades in the making,” he said. “The major features are grade separated interchanges rather than traffic signals at the intersections of the 31st and 40th Street bridges.”

He said removing the traffic lights should ease congestion along the roadway.

In 2011, 29 Port Authority (PAT) bus routes were eliminated due to lack of funding, and some residents are questioning why the 2015 Allegheny County budget allocates PAT funds to build a PennDOT pedestrian bridge, instead of working to reinstate the old bus routes.

In 2009 a court ruling stated that the drink and car rental taxes could only be used for PAT expenditures , yet the $1 million bridge will be paid for with those taxes and built by PennDOT.

Starting now, law enforcement agencies across Pennsylvania will be targeting aggressive drivers. Each year, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation funds local efforts to crack down on behaviors such as speeding, tailgating and running red lights.

“Some people call it road rage, we call it aggressive driving,” said Juliann Sheldon, a PennDOT spokeswoman. “We see a vast number of accidents because of these road rage issues. By changing driver behavior, that will help to decrease the number of crashes and fatalities we see on our roadways.”

For the first time in decades Heth’s Run in Highland Park will soon reach the Allegheny River, and the change is as much due to a transportation project as it is an environmental effort. 

The state is hoping to partner with municipalities across the state to improve traffic signals that will lead not only to better traffic flow but also to added energy savings.

PennDOT will use Act 89 funds to support its “Green Light-Go” program.  The act sets aside $10 million for signal improvements in the current budget.

P3 Approves Compressed Natural Gas Fueling Stations

Sep 30, 2014

Pennsylvania’s Public-Private Partnership (P3) Board has approved a project to develop compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations at public transit agencies around the state with the expectation that the public would be able to access the fuel. 

Despite importing 75 percent of its natural gas just five years ago, Pennsylvania has become a net exporter of the fuel for the first time in more than 100 years.

Pennsylvania’s highways among the worst in the nation, according to a report released Thursday by a Los Angeles nonprofit.

The commonwealth has dropped from 40th to 41st in “overall highway performance and cost effectiveness,” according to the Reason Foundation’s 21st annual highway report.

David Hartgen, lead researcher and professor of transportation studies at the University of North Carolina, said the state’s high percentage of deficient bridges, narrow rural lanes and a high fatality rate has caused its rankings to slip.

The state is rolling out its first public-private partnership since a 2012 law allowed such joint efforts for transportation infrastructure and services.

A nearly 20-year-old highway safety truck service now has a private sponsor in State Farm, which is paying 11 percent of the annual $4 million cost for the roving patrols on highways in and around Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley and Harrisburg.

File photo / Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Ten days after the outbound Liberty Tunnel opened after a 16-day round-the-clock closure, PennDOT will close the inbound tunnel 24/7 for 17 days starting Tuesday at 8 pm.

PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said that like the recent work done on the outbound tunnel, the inbound tunnel will be painted.

"This allows a surface that allows crews to clean the inside of the tunnel,” he said.

On a daily basis, 18,500 vehicles travel through the outbound Liberty Tunnel. Effective at 8 p.m. Friday, motorists will need to find a new way to the South Hills.

PennDOT is closing the outbound tunnel around-the-clock through 6 a.m. Monday July 28.

Crews will prepare the tunnel walls so they can be painted and complete work that was halted in December.

As PennDOT nears completion on the two-year long, $49 million rehabilitation of the Squirrel Hill Tunnels next month, it’s beginning work Wednesday evening on the first of three Parkway West (I-376) projects.

One outbound lane will be closed as workers install traffic control signs Wednesday and Thursday from midnight until 5 a.m.

This first project involves construction of a fourth outbound lane, about a mile long, from Rosslyn Farms to I-79. PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said he expects this part of the $3.72 million project to be completed by the spring.

Turnpike Tolls on the Rise For the Foreseeable Future

Jun 18, 2014
MPD01605 / Flickr

The PA Turnpike Commission has approved a toll increase set to begin in 2015. This is the seventh rate increase since Act 44 of 2007.  It is also the first time since 2011, EZ Pass rates have gone up. What do these toll rate changes mean for the future of the turnpike?

PennDOT says it has taken precautions to protect electronic roadside signs from pranksters seeking to change the message.

Numerous sign hacks have appeared across the country for years, drawing attention to security shortcomings.

But a spokeswoman for PennDOT says the state’s electronic signs and highway advisory radios are protected with passwords as well as physical locking systems.

Chuck Davis, who teaches ethical hacking and computer forensics at Harrisburg University, said that’s probably adequate.

After 20 Years, PennDOT Evaluates Problems With the Parkway East

May 13, 2014
Flickr user daveynin

Negotiating the roads around Pittsburgh isn’t easy. For a long time, one area of contention has been I-376 East.

So the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is now asking for public feedback on traffic conditions for the route known as the Parkway East. PennDOT District 11 Executive, Dan Cessna said this is the department’s first evaluation for the Parkway East in 20 years.

Cessna pointed out how infrastructure and safety impact Parkway traffic flow on a daily basis.  

PennDOT wants to know what you think should be done to the Parkway East to reduce congestion and lower the number of accidents seen each year.

“We’re only going to look at things that would be something we can afford,” said PennDOT Dist. 11 Executive Dan Cessna. 

Ideas such as removing the Squirrel Hill Tunnel or completely reconfigure the highway will not be considered.

“These are affordable changes that could be done at the interchanges, to the networks of the traffic signal systems, other modifications to the lanes,” Cessna said.