PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Tunnels are the Achilles’ heel of Pittsburgh traffic, so when the outbound Liberty Tunnel closes at 10 p.m. for 16 days, there’s going to be a lot more traffic in the downtown area.

But what does a lot more traffic mean?

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“We are thinking about 20,000 to 25,000 motorist that are going to be using the detour,” Dan Cessna, PennDOT District 11 executive, said.

Detoured while the concrete is poured and cured for what will be the new face of the tubes, and ventilation work is done in the tunnel’s core.

All those drivers will be heading for the obvious alternatives – the Fort Pitt and West End Bridges, which are already a daily mess.

“The reality is, there are going to be more cars trying to go to the same place, so backups could be considerably longer,” said Cessna.

For traffic that does cross the Liberty Bridge, there will be one alternative – up McArdle Roadway and down Merrimac Street and Woodruff on the other side.

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This route has been the detour route for overnight closures since April. It’s posted at 25 miles per hour.

“As soon as 10 o’clock hits, it’s a freeway down here. It’s like a racetrack, and you’ve got semis with huge loads using airbrakes at two and three in the morning; and anybody who has bedrooms on the street, you can’t sleep. It wakes you up; it’s horrible,” said Mary Jewell, of Mount Washington.

PennDOT will have police working the intersections to keep traffic moving, but the route is barely a single lane and drivers have a “drive in the middle of the road” tendency.

Also, the Wasbash Tunnel, which is being touted as an HOV alternative, is not easy to access and dumps you out into the Mount Washington detour route.

“It’s a real challenging detour route, absolutely, and that’s why we’re encouraging motorists plan ahead and know it’s not going to be a smooth detour,” said Cessna. “It’s going to be very congested.”

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