PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — 2020 is only a few weeks away, and it won’t be long before orange is blooming on some major area roadways.
PennDOT is finalizing its plans for 2020, and Route 28 is in the construction crosshairs.READ MORE: Pet Owners Face Long Waits, Veterinarians Deal With Burnout As Pandemic Impact Hits ER Vet Offices
When the major rebuilding of Route 28 from Etna to Pittsburgh was finally finished and it became an expressway, PennDOT knew there was a major project still to be done. The free flow of traffic on Route 28 through its Allegheny County section had a built-in bottleneck: the intersection with the Highland Park Bridge.
“During both AM and PM peak that is a backup now and creates a lot of accidents,” said PennDOT.
Originally constructed to allow two lanes of traffic past the bridge in each direction, years ago one of those lanes each way was closed off to allow free flow to and from the Highland Park Bridge.
In more recent years and with the free flow elsewhere on Route 28, forcing the through-traffic into a single lane has created the mess.
So Moon-Sirianni said they came up with a plan and got the funding.
“To eliminate the two lane to one lane bottleneck in each direction. So you’ll have two lanes free-flowing both northbound and southbound,” Moon-Sirianni said.
That was not easy design, considering the road has houses on one side and a hillside and houses above on the other.
“We’re actually widening it into the middle,” Moon-Sirianni said. “We’re building walls into the median where you have a bifurcated highway and we’ll be building walls in the middle to allow you to have the room.”
No homes will be taken for the construction, and sound barrier walls are also in the plan.
The work will get started next summer and take a couple of construction seasons to complete. Moon-Sirianni said it’s too early in the planning process to know what lane restrictions will be needed for the work.READ MORE: Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan Tests Positive For COVID-19 Despite Vaccination
SEWICKLEY / NEVILLE ISLAND BRIDGES
Meanwhile, a few miles downriver, two bridges crossing the Ohio are going under construction at the same time. PennDOT would not normally have planned it that way, but the money for the projects is available now.
Only in the middle of the night will people find peace around the Sewickley Bridge. The two lane bridge is often backed up all the way across the bridge during the rush hours, and it’s showing its’ age.
“The deck itself has a lot of pop-outs and a lot of damage to the deck we’ve been repairing it with a maintenance contract, and it can’t wait any longer,” Moon-Sirianni said.
Steel work will also be involved, and while PennDOT would try like to keep the work and lane restrictions to nights and weekends, there is just too much to do.
“There will be four to six weekend detours, but there will also be a span of two weeks where we’re going to allow the contractor to shut the bridge down totally,” Moon-Sirianni said.
Those closings come when the closest bridge across the Ohio, the I-79 Neville Island Bridge, is also undergoing construction.
“It’s going to be mostly painting anyone who drives through can look up and see it is very rusty,” said Moon-Sirianni. “It is such a difficult bridge to reduce traffic even off-peak hours there’s a lot of traffic in the day on that bridge. Painting is a difficult activity. You can’t paint at night.”
So PennDOT will do what it can with the I-79 Neville Island Bridge in 2020, but some of the work will be pushed to 2021.
“We will coordinating with the Sewickley Bridge which takes priority in the time frame,” Moon-Sirianni said.MORE NEWS: Police Investigate Reports Of Verbal Assault In Squirrel Hill
Because so much of the work on both bridges is weather-dependent, decisions on when closures will occur closer to the actual work.