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Detour signs to sprout as road work season begins

Tuesday, January 04, 2000

By Joe Grata, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Part of Pittsburgh will be emblematic of Fort Pitt this year -- a city construction fortress guarded by orange barrels, detour signs and off-duty police.

    PG Online graphic:

Roadwork for 2000


Four major road projects costing about $65 million are scheduled to get under way on both sides of the Allegheny River, between Point State Park and the Ninth Street Bridge, starting March 1.

They include the next phase of Fort Pitt Bridge ramp work and relocation of Fort Duquesne Boulevard at the same time and in the same area as work moves into full swing on two stadiums and an expansion of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

The Fort Pitt Bridge and Fort Pitt Boulevard projects are to be the focal points of a multitude of transportation improvements, costing hundreds of millions of dollars and affecting drivers from throughout southwestern Pennsylvania to some extent.

Last year's bottleneck on Interstate 70 in Westmoreland County will move from Rostraver, where two small bridges were rebuilt last year, to Smithton, where the high-level bridge over the Youghiogheny River will be restricted to only one lane in each direction during an $18 million rehabilitation.

Although no work was done on I-79 in Allegheny County last year, that won't be the case this year. Starting in July, five miles of the busy north-south highway are to be repaired and then resurfaced from Route 60 at the Kennedy-Robinson line north to Groveton at the south shore of the Ohio River.

"If every level of government delivers on its promises, it looks like a very, very busy year," said Art Prado, executive director of the Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania, which represents the highway building industry in 33 counties west of Harrisburg.

"All of the activity is creating a lot of jobs in the skilled crafts, service industries and supply industries," he said. "It's so busy, the people in fabricated steel can't keep up."

For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to accept bids to replace a Route 28 southbound bridge in Etna in June, but it's postponing work it hoped to start this year until 2001. "That's to give the contractor time to get his steel ordered and delivered," PennDOT traffic engineer Frank Cippel said.

Only four projects in 2001 are considered "new" facilities: a $27 million interchange on Business Route 60 in Moon at Cargo Road, designed to upgrade commercial access at Pittsburgh International Airport; continuation of construction on the 17-mile section of the Mon-Fayette Expressway in Washington and southern Allegheny counties; building the initial piece of Port Authority's "Stage II" light-rail line in the Bon Air-Overbrook sections of Pittsburgh; and the $38 million, long-planned Kittanning Bypass.

Two major facilities will open: an eight-mile section of the Mon-Fayette Expressway south of Uniontown in Fayette County, and the Port Authority's five-mile West Busway providing a bypass of Parkway West traffic congestion between Carnegie and the West End.

Here's more information about the four "Fort Pitt" road construction project in the upcoming construction season:

Fort Pitt Bridge-related work will begin March 1 by closing the exit ramp from the bridge to the Boulevard of Allies and Liberty Avenue. Around the end of June, the $16.8 million contract requires closing the northern half of the "portal bridge" at Point State Park, thereby cutting access to I-279 North and the exit ramps to the 10th Street Bypass and Fort Duquesne Boulevard. All work is to be done and all ramps are to be reopened in time for Light Up Night on Nov. 17.

The $9 million reconstruction and relocation of Fort Duquesne Boulevard also is scheduled to begin March 1, closing the eastbound and westbound lanes between Stanwix Street and the Ninth Street Bridge for up to 13 months. The city is going to maintain access between cross streets and the bridges. An upper-level riverfront park will be created in place of the existing westbound lanes.

Also starting in March will be about $35 million worth of local road and street improvements designed to serve PNC Park, the new Steelers stadium and other North Shore attractions and development. A rebuilt General Robinson Street is to become the east-west axis for traffic.

In mid-May, PennDOT plans to reconstruct the four-lane streets circling Allegheny Center Mall, and their connections to East Ohio and West Ohio streets. PennDOT will keep a minimum of two lanes and all mall entrances open during the $3.6 million project. "The mall is going to be important for Pirates parking" since so many other parking spaces are being usurped by construction, Cippel said.

In addition to projects carried over from last year such as widening Route 228 over I-79 in Cranberry and building a Route 22-66 interchange in Delmont, information obtained by the Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania indicated about $700 million worth of transportation work is scheduled to get under way in the region this year.

The figures included $154 million for the Port Authority, $85 million for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and $46 million for the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Here's a roundup of other significant highway and bridge projects coming up:

Route 88, Overbrook -- This project was carried over from last year, when legal problems dealing with billboards delayed rebuilding a half-mile stretch from McNeilly Road north to Route 51. While PennDOT says the project is a go for this year, it isn't likely to start until late in the year.

Route 51 -- Two separate resurfacing projects in the South Hills will be done during off-peak hours. Basically, the work will extend from Bausman Street, just south of the Liberty Tunnel, to Lebanon Church Road in Pleasant Hills at a cost of $4.8 million. Meanwhile, Route 51 through Jefferson Hills will be down to one lane in each direction again starting about March 1 while a contractor finishes Mon-Fayette Expressway-related improvements.

Glenwood Bridge -- No exact date has been set, but Allegheny County expects to close the four-lane Glenwood Bridge for deck replacement and other work sometime in early spring. At the same time, PennDOT is thinking about repairing the concrete bridge decks at the southern interchange of the bridge at Routes 885/837.

McKnight Road -- As a continuation of the resurfacing done last year, PennDOT will move the project south this year: Babcock Boulevard south to Nelson Run Road Bridge near the Ross-Pittsburgh line. Work is expected to start about mid-April.

Route 22-30, North Fayette -- PennDOT will do the same type of concrete rehabilitation it did last year on the section west to the Washington County line. The new project will cover two miles from McKee Road to the Route 22-30 split. It will mean crossing traffic to the opposite side, where one lane will be maintained in each direction.

Ardmore Boulevard, Forest Hills -- Three miles are to be surfaced between Yost Boulevard and the Parkway East during off-peak hours. The $2.2 million project is to include installation of more modern traffic signals.

Tri-Boro Expressway (Route 130) -- Single-lane restrictions are to be in place from March through October while four miles of badly deteriorated concrete roadway are reconstructed in the Turtle Creek area at an estimated cost of $5.2 million.

Route 65, Bellevue -- PennDOT has finally resolved rights of way problems in the corridor and plans a $2.4 million widening to provide left-turn lanes and modern signals at intersections.

Cargo Road, Moon -- Business Route 60 will be restricted to a single lane in each direction when this two-year, $27 million project gets under way. The project includes fixing deteriorated Route 60 pavement west to Flaugherty Run Road.

West End Circle -- Contractor will begin preparing to excavate next winter to provide a future direct connection between Route 51 and the West End Bridge. Look for Cross Street to be closed by year end.

Routes 19-910, Pine -- The Route 19 (Perry Highway) overpass of Route 910 near Bradford Woods is to be rehabilitated starting in June. For a while, there will be a quarter-mile detour, using ramps and temporary signals. The work is to last through early 2001.

I-79 at 910, Franklin Park -- The interstate will be restricted in non-rush hours while the Route 910 overpass is painted, a preventive maintenance project scheduled but not done last year because the General Assembly didn't pass a bridge bill in time.

Miller's Run Road, South Fayette -- Route 50 will be the detour when PennDOT closes part of Miller's Run Road to reconstruct a short bridge.

Route 30, Westmoreland County -- PennDOT will continue the reconstruction it has been doing for several years now on the deteriorated pavement east of Greensburg. This year's rebuilding is to be from Beatty Road east to the Route 981 intersection, requiring single-lane traffic past the main entrance to St. Vincent College.

I-79, Allegheny County -- Five miles of roadway are to be repaired then resurfaced from Route 60 north to Groveton (Route 51), just before the Ohio River. Traffic is to be limited to one lane each way.

I-79, Washington County -- Eight miles are to be rehabilitated starting in mid-summer at an estimated cost of $35 million. Work zone and single-lane restrictions will extend approximately from Route 40 south to Marianna. The project will extend through 2001.

Lane Bane Bridge, Brownsville -- Traffic will be one lane in each direction while the Route 40 bridge is undergoing repairs.

Route 119, Westmoreland County -- PennDOT has awarded a $10.5 million contract to upgrade 3.6 miles of the four-lane highway in East Huntingdon and Hempfield townships in the vicinity of the Sony plant, including structures over a railroad spur and Sewickley Creek. Preliminary work is to start later this month.

I-70, Westmoreland County -- The Smithton High-Level Bridge over the Youghiogheny River will be rehabilitated at a cost of $18 million, a project requiring single-file traffic for about 1.5 miles.

Route 22, Westmoreland County -- PennDOT is ready for the next installment of upgrading the old William Penn Highway, this time an estimated $12 million upgrade from Shieldsburg to New Alexandria and a new bridge over the Loyalhanna Creek.

Kittanning Bypass -- PennDOT has received an apparent low bid of $38.3 million for the two-mile, four-lane, limited-access bypass between the Graff Bridge and Route 28/85, including a Route 422 interchange. Construction is to get under way in March and last through 2001.

Route 19, Washington -- Construction is to begin late next month for $1.8 million worth of improvements to Route 19 in the City of Washington and South Strabane, including left-turn lanes at Oak Springs Road and Washington Mall. Work is to be completed in early fall.

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