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ASPINWALL (KDKA) — Penndot knew the day it opened Rt 28 to free flow traffic northbound out of Pittsburgh without the 31st Street Bridge traffic light it was going to create a bottle neck at Highland Park.

“We saw the need for traffic congestion relief that was occurring at this interchange,” says Cheryl Moon-Sirianni the District 11 Executive for Penndot.

The daily outbound traffic jam is like clockwork as the at speed flow finds itself having to merge to a single lane to pass the Highland Park Bridge. The southbound merger to a single lane creates a similar bottleneck for the morning rush hour. Both directions were originally designed and opened with two thru lanes. “The second thru lanes were closed off in the 80s, “ Moon-Sirianni says because, “the traffic coming from the Highland Park Bridge was significant enough that it actually took an entire lane to come off the bridge.”

That demand has only grown and today 66-thousand drivers a day use the mainline of Rt 28 past the bridge and 51-thousand drivers use the Highland Park Bridge. So Penndot need to create more asphalt and concrete to reduce the congestion and improve the flow.

While the area appears landlocked Moon-Sirianni says Penndot has a plan, “We have a little bit of area in the middle where we are going to be building walls in the middle to widen the northbound lanes to the middle and we are widening the southbound lanes into the hillside.”

The end result will be two thru lanes on 28 in each direction and dedicated exit and merging lanes for the bridge traffic.

In addition traffic signals are proposed on Freeport Road where the bridge ramps enter and exit. There will also be a new signal where the Aspinwall traffic going to Rt 28 now merges with drivers coming off the bridge. It’s a dangerous intersection with lots of accidents and Moon-Siriani says all three signals will improve safety.

Penndot is seeking public comment now and hopes to start construction in 2020. The $55 million dollar project will be mostly completed that year with some residual work extending into 2021.

The existing number of lanes and ramps will continue to be open throughout construction. Penndot says there could be some overnight and weekend closures as the work progresses.