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PennDOT to share Route 28 plans with public

Madasyn Czebiniak
| Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, 12:39 a.m.
Commuters sit stuck in traffic along Route 28 north at the Highland Park Bridge interchange on Wednsday, Nov. 8, 2017.
Mary Ann Thomas | Tribune Review
Commuters sit stuck in traffic along Route 28 north at the Highland Park Bridge interchange on Wednsday, Nov. 8, 2017.

PennDOT and the Federal Highway Administration will hold a public meeting this month to discuss a proposed reconstruction project at the Highland Park Bridge interchange (Exit 6) along the Route 28 expressway.

The stretch is the site of chronic traffic backups during rush hours because it is reduced to one lane in each direction, creating a bottleneck.

It also has been the scene of dozens of crashes. According to PennDOT data, there were 87 crashes within roughly 1,000 feet of the intersection from 2012 to 2016. None resulted in fatalities.

Crystal Spreng, 47, of Saxon­burg said she uses Route 28 at least three times a week to visit her daughter in Millvale. She said she tries to time her drives around rush hour because she knows how backed up the stretch will be.

“It's definitely a pain,” Spreng said. “My daughter gets stuck in it daily. We really try to miss the hours that it's really busy.”

The proposed project aims to re-establish two travel lanes northbound and southbound and improve acceleration and deceleration ramps at the interchange, an announcement for the meeting said.

The additional lanes would be added between North Canal Street/Kittanning Pike and the Delafield Avenue interchange (Exit 7).

Also proposed is the reconstruction of the Route 28 ramps with the Highland Park Bridge and Freeport Road.

That part of the project would consist mainly of the reconstruction of the existing pavement, bridge preservation work, and miscellaneous operational and safety improvements. Noise walls are being evaluated.

The anticipated $55 million project is in the preliminary engineering phase, with the final design to occur in 2018 and 2019, PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said.

Route 28 at the Highland Park Bridge originally handled two lanes of traffic both north and southbound.

But the second lane is painted over with striping in both directions because of numerous accidents between vehicles merging to and from the bridge with through traffic on Route 28.

How PennDOT plans to construct the additional lanes in both directions is unclear.

Cowan declined to answer other questions about project specifics, saying PennDOT doesn't typically provide such information prior to public meetings because it doesn't want people to have preconceived notions.

He said the meeting will give the department the opportunity to present project details, the anticipated construction schedule and proposed traffic controls and detours. The public will be given the chance to ask questions.

Janice Hoener, 71, of Fox Chapel said she would be in favor of PennDOT adding a lane in each direction on the stretch of Route 28. She said the configuration of the interchange and bridge are confusing and she avoids the area when going to church or driving her roommate to work.

“It's so backed up, and ... there's no courtesy as far as merging,” Hoener said. “The right lane is supposed to be for the Highland Park Bridge, and everybody is in the right-hand lane until the very last minute — and then they scoot over. Laws aren't being enforced there.”

Denise Stockdale, 67, of New Kensington said she likes what PennDOT is proposing but doesn't like the thought of more construction on the road.

“Because of the bottleneck, things need to be done,” Stockdale said. “I just hate to see more construction on (Route) 28. It's like, ever since it was built ... all that we've done is do construction on it.”

Route 28 stretches roughly 40 miles from Pittsburgh to just beyond Kittanning. The average daily traffic on the expressway in the area of the interchange is about 57,000.

Other work coming

Route 28 has already undergone some major improvement projects both north and south of the interchange, and more are planned for next spring.

On the southern end, PennDOT spent roughly $106 million on a five-year project that widened the stretch of Route 28 in Pittsburgh between the 40th Street Bridge and East Ohio Street and added on- and off-ramps at the 31st Street Bridge.

On the northern end, the agency completed a $48.8 million project in 2009 that included the construction of a third northbound lane from the Harmar interchange to the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer and major hillside and roadwork to protect against rock slides.

Work on a seven-mile project from the Butler County line south to near the Creighton southbound on-ramp at Exit 13 is expected to begin in the spring.

That work includes paving the road with asphalt and updating signs and pavement markings, among other improvements.

Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4702 or mczebiniak@tribweb.com.

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