Bridge To Get Dramatic Facelift, Could Have Major Impact On Traffic

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — In our city of critical bridges, if you had to list the top 10, odds are the name Commercial Street would not be there. But maybe it should be.

Serving, anonymously, for 67 years, it spans Commercial Street, Frick Park and Nine Mile Run.

“More than 86,000 vehicles use this interstate bridge every single day,” said Leslie Richards, the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

It’s the parallel twin bridge connection between the Squirrel Hill Tunnel and Edgewood-Swissvale. And because of that, Richards says, “This bridge is showing its age.”

At 863-feet long and 74-feet high, the span has needed repairs for some time now just to keep it open to most traffic. Overweight vehicles are already banned from using it.

“We could be faced with additional weight restrictions,” Richards said.

If that happens, the truck traffic that populates the Parkway East could wind up making its way through Wilkinsburg, Point Breeze, Squirrel Hill and Oakland.

“To start detouring those legal loads would be a regionally impact,” said Jim Foringer, PennDOT’s District 11 acting executive.

The decision hasn’t yet been made whether to refurbish or replace the bridge. PennDOT is sensitive to the historic architecture of the structure and will take that into consideration as it seeks public input.

But Roger Eaton, the associate vice president of HDR Engineering, says, “I would think, probably a new structure would be a lot easier.”

But they’ll be taking a lot of things into consideration.

“I think we’re going to be evaluating different ideas,” said Eaton.

And they’ll be trying to keep traffic interruptions to a minimum.

“Four lanes open at all times, and maybe some smaller periods of detours on the weekends if we have to do some work,” Foringer said.

Richards announced the $123 million funding for the span today, but officials say the public won’t see any construction for another year.

“Engineering probably won’t begin until 2019, so we’re talking years out before you see any construction on this,” Richards said.

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