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2001 Road Projects to Total $1 Billion

Mon January 03, 2000 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide


Fort Pitt Bridge and Tunnel work will be out of sight if not out of mind during the 2001 construction season -- at least for most of the 145,000 daily users.

The decade-long, now approximately $150 million phased rehabilitation of Pittsburgh’s lifeline and the region’s busiest transportation facility will be limited to about $12 million worth of repairs and changes to tunnel electrical and ventilation systems.

Traffic disruptions will not occur often and, when they do, they’ll be overnight and on weekends, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation district engineer Ray Hack said.

"That’s our marquee project," Hack said, "but the majority of people won’t even know we’re working in there" next year, replacing wires, controls, fans and ducts installed almost a half-century ago and housed mostly in huge air shafts hidden above the tunnel ceilings.

The respite for drivers follows two years of extensive traffic restrictions and detours necessitated by the repair of two dozen ramps, overpasses and other structures around Point State Park. It comes one year before the outbound main deck and outbound tunnel are to be closed for up to six months.

The remaining level of the Fort Pitt Bridge deck and tunnel repairs affecting inbound traffic will take place in 2003.

There is more good news on the horizon, including reopening relocated, reconstructed Fort Duquesne Boulevard and some new streets on the North Shore to coincide with the April 9 grand opening of PNC Park, the Pittsburgh Pirates new stadium.

But because orange detour signs, like robins, reappear each spring to become part of Western Pennsylvania scenery, PennDOT isn’t about to disappoint anyone.

Ready?

The outbound lanes of the Boulevard of the Allies will be closed from the Liberty Bridge to the boulevard exit ramp in South Oakland for reconstruction, including four cantilevered bridge structures jutting over the top of a cliff above the Parkway East. Hack said the inbound lanes, rebuilt previously, may be restricted at times "just so we can place our equipment there while we work on the outbound lanes."

Three projects totaling more than $20 million are set to occur simultaneously over a six-mile stretch of Route 28 from Etna to beyond Blawnox. The southbound lanes will be closed to through traffic south of the Highland Park Bridge, but PennDOT has abandoned plans to shift traffic to the northbound side and maintain one lane in both directions between the Highland Park Bridge and Etna. Instead, southbound traffic will be detoured across the Highland Park Bridge to Butler Street to the 62nd Street Bridge.

Because of all the work on Route 28, PennDOT has postponed improvements to the so-called Mae West Bend on Route 8 north of Etna until the 2002 construction season.

Route 22 is to be reconstructed from the Route 30 "split" west to the Washington County line in North Fayette, with traffic crossed to the opposite side and maintained on one lane in each direction, same as in past years when other Route 22-30 repair work took place.

In the same corridor, Route 22-30 is to be resurfaced from Tonidale Road near the Parkway West to McKee Road in North Fayette, while part of McKee Road is being improved, too.

Interstate 79 will be patched and resurfaced between Steubenville Pike (Route 60) and the Ohio River in Kennedy and Robinson. While only a single lane will be open in both north and south directions, that five-mile stretch carries the smallest volume of traffic on I-79 in Allegheny County.

Route 51 is to be resurfaced from Bausman Street near the Liberty Tunnels south to Lebanon Church Road at the Pleasant Hills cloverleaf -- work postponed from the 2000 construction season because engineers didn’t finish bid specifications. Also, Route 51 is to be resurfaced from the Elizabeth Bridge north over Large Hill into Jefferson Hills.

Also, reconstruction of a half-mile of Route 88 south of the Route 51 intersection in Overbrook is on PennDOT’s schedule for a third year in a row after being delayed twice by a dispute over billboards.

PennDOT and the city have partnered to reconstruct Fort Pitt Boulevard east above the Monongahela Wharf. Two lanes will remain part of the boulevard, but one lane will be converted to a direct ramp from the Fort Duquesne Bridge (I-279) to the Parkway East (I-376). Plans are still being drawn, so the project is not likely to get under way before fall.

Work is to start on building a so-called hole-in-the-wall under the railroad at West End Circle, ultimately to create a direct Route 51-19 connection to the West End Bridge and alleviate traffic confusion and congestion.

In Pittsburgh, PennDOT plans to resurface Perrysville Avenue from Marshall Avenue to Ivory Avenue near the Ross line. In addition, Penn Circle in East Liberty will be resurfaced.

Several projects will affect North Hills traffic patterns, including rehabilitating the Perry Highway (Route 19) overpass of Route 910 near Wexford and replacing the deck of a Mount Royal Boulevard bridge north of Duncan Avenue, Hampton.

Statewide, PennDOT expects to award contracts for $1.35 billion worth of new construction, or about $50 million more than this year. The news pleases the highway construction industry.

"Overall, it will be good for employment and good for motorists," said Art Prado, director of the Pittsburgh-based Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania, representing about 70 contractors and about 100 suppliers and construction service businesses. "We have the capacity to handle the work, although skilled manpower is wearing a little thin."

Also, if companies that dredge the Allegheny River for sand and gravel fail to work out lingering problems with the state Department of Environmental Protection, Prado said asphalt and concrete suppliers will have to import those materials from other areas.

"Then you’re talking trucks instead of barges, which drives up costs" of delivery, he said. "Tandem and tri-axle dump truck traffic could increase several times, adding to congestion and safety concerns."

Numerous other transportation projects and programs are on tap for 2001. Here are the highlights:

Pittsburgh International Airport -- Three times as much money as usual -- about $73 million -- will be spent next year, including about $31 million in "heavy and highway" construction, boosted by $10 million for runway improvements and an $18 million de-icing pad to accommodate new wide-body jets.

Pennsylvania Turnpike -- An estimated $123 million worth of new contracts are to be awarded for construction and resurfacing projects between the Ohio line and Harrisburg, including the next phase of the direct connection between I-79 and the turnpike in Cranberry and construction of a mainline toll plaza in the Marshall area.

Six miles of reconstruction on a section of original turnpike east of New Stanton is to be finished in the summer. An estimated $60 million contract is to be awarded in early fall for similar work on nine more miles in the Donegal area.

Mon-Fayette Expressway -- More than $200 million worth of construction work in progress between Interstate 70 in Fallowfield and Route 51 in Jefferson Hills will be concluding. While several miles of the new toll road may be opened around Charleroi, turnpike officials said all 17 miles may not be ready for traffic until spring 2002.

Neighboring counties -- In Armstrong County, a $39 million Kittanning Bypass project is to be finished by fall, providing a direct connection between Routes 422 and 28-66, alleviating congestion at the bottom of Indiana Pike Hill and improving safety.

In Westmoreland County, Route 22 will be limited to a single lane in both directions through New Alexandria for a $20 million improvement project. PennDOT continues to widen the old roadway and add left-turn lanes and modern signal systems.

In Beaver County, a Route 30 bridge over Transverse Creek in Hanover will be replaced, and more than $10 million of widening and safety improvements will get under way on Freedom-Crider Road in New Sewickley.

In Washington County, I-70 will be resurfaced from the West Virginia line east to PennDOT’s Welcome Center, while patching and repairs take place on other portions of the highway.

In Bedford County, bids will open March 3 for a project to realign part of Route 30 in the Everett area. U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Everett, used his political clout to amend a federal transportation spending bill and allow traffic to detour around the construction zone toll-free via the Pennsylvania Turnpike for more than two years already, although the project hasn’t started.

In Butler County, two miles of Route 68 crossing Donegal Township and Chicora are to be repaired and repaved.

Port Authority -- About $150 million worth of work will be taking place on the six-mile Overbrook light-rail line, designed to speed South Hills service, and on a 2.6-mile extension to the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway, the buses-only road providing transit riders in eastern communities with an alternative to Parkway East and local street congestion.

Also, the authority has awarded a $6.7 million contract to build the First Avenue Station, the first station to be added to the Downtown light-rail system since 1985.

City of Pittsburgh -- Most work will be carried over from this year and focused on the North Shore, where the new baseball and football stadiums and parking garage are under construction. But after rebuilt Fort Duquesne Boulevard reopens in April, the heavily traveled 10th Street Bypass is to be closed east of Ninth Street for David L. Lawrence Convention Center construction.

New interstate signs -- PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will soon start changing the old sequential numbering system on their limited-access highway exits to a mileage-based system. For example, New Stanton Exit 8 will become Exit 75, based on its location 75 miles east of the Ohio line.

Coneman -- The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership plans to introduce a comic creation featuring "Coneman," a caped, Superman-like figure wearing an orange traffic cone on his head. Coneman will be featured in a light-hearted publicity blitz to help motorists find their ways around construction zones and recurring traffic snafus.

Allegheny County -- The county will start a $2.2 million replacement of railings on the Roberto Clemente (Sixth Street), Seventh Street and Ninth Street bridges, with the Clemente bridge to be completed by April. The design of the railing will be essentially the same --and painted yellow -- but wire mesh-type panels will replace solid panels in order to discourage graffiti.

Plans call for $4 million worth of resurfacing on county-maintained roads, but the list of roads isn’t finalized.

The slow lane on each side of Glenwood Bridge over the Monongahela River will be restricted again while the contractor who repaired the bridge last construction season finishes painting the steel superstructure.

Army Corps of Engineers -- An 11,000-ton segment of a new dam being assembled on land in Leetsdale will be floated up the Ohio and Monongahela rivers to Braddock, where it will be sunk and anchored to become part of a $107 million waterways facility at Braddock.

Parking facilities -- Construction has reached the advanced stages on a six-story, 1,200-space First Avenue garage being built by the Pittsburgh Parking Authority. Patrons will have free access to the Downtown light-rail system. The Sports & Exhibition Authority is building a 930-space garage on the North Shore, next to PNC Park.




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