Bridge detour drives up frustration
By Jodi Weigand
Published: Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Emily Miller said she nervously watched her car's gas gauge hovering at empty as she inched along in traffic on the detour route around the closed Tarentum Bridge lanes to New Kensington.
She said it took nearly 30 minutes to travel from Tarentum to the Sheetz in East Deer. Miller of New Kensington was on her way home from her job at Fantastic Sam's in Buffalo Township.
“I wasn't expecting it,” she said, admitting that she never noticed the closure and detour signs that had been posted last week. “I needed gas since the exit.”
Other drivers said they spent an extra 15 to 20 minutes making the normally eight-minute drive down Freeport Road from Tarentum to the New Kensington Bridge, which was the official detour.
The Tarentum Bridge lanes and the East First Avenue ramp closed on Friday evening and are scheduled to reopen at 6 a.m. Monday.
The main traffic back-up began about a half-mile before the stop light at Freeport Road and Baileys Run Road in East Deer.
The line of stop-and-go traffic continued for two miles to the New Kensington Bridge.
A city police officer operated the traffic signal on the New Kensington side.
“It's been steady,” said New Kensington Patrolman Christian Baker. By 2 p.m., he had been operating the signal for three hours. “There hasn't been a break in it yet.”
Drivers sitting at the red light near the Sheetz convenience store on Freeport Road said East Deer Police should have posted an officer at the township's side of the New Kensington Bridge.
“I thought they would have had things set up better,” said Chad Rotter, of Brackenridge. “I know they need to get things done, but this is pretty ridiculous.”
Bob Greiner, also of Brackenridge, said he sat in traffic for about 15 minutes from Greco's scrap yard on Freeport Road to the Sheetz.
“They need to do something to speed up these lights,” he said.
East Deer Police could not be reached for comment.
The paving is the final phase of PennDOT's $7.7 million project to revamp about two miles of Route 366 between Fawn and New Kensington. About 21,000 motorists use the bridge each day, according to PennDOT.
The Tarentum-bound lanes of the bridge will likely close next weekend.
The majority of the Route 366 project has been complete for almost a year, but the final step couldn't be taken until the end of mating season for two peregrine falcons living under the bridge.
The endangered falcons successfully nested under the bridge last year for the first time.
The falcons are not known to be nesting at this time, so the Game Commission gave PennDOT the OK to start the project.
Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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