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Partial Squirrel Hill Tunnel closing to coincide with festival at Pitt, Pens game

James Knox | Tribune-Review - The Squirrel Hill Tunnel as seen Wednesday March 20, 2013 will close starting this Friday evening and remain closed all weekend as a part of an ongoing $49.5 million project to raise the clearance inside the tunnel by 2 feet.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Squirrel Hill Tunnel as seen Wednesday March 20, 2013 will close starting this Friday evening and remain closed all weekend as a part of an ongoing $49.5 million project to raise the clearance inside the tunnel by 2 feet.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - The Squirrel Hill Tunnel as seen Wednesday March 20, 2013 will close starting this Friday evening and remain closed all weekend as a part of an ongoing $49.5 million project to raise the clearance inside the tunnel by 2 feet.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review</em></div>The Squirrel Hill Tunnel as seen Wednesday March 20, 2013 will close starting this Friday evening and remain closed all weekend as a part of an ongoing $49.5 million project to raise the clearance inside the tunnel by 2 feet.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:46 p.m.
 

The Squirrel Hill Tunnel will be closed to the Parkway East's outbound motorists this weekend as crews begin removing the ceiling in the eastbound tunnel, PennDOT said.

The closure — from 11 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Monday — will send about 35,000 motorists a day on detours through Squirrel Hill and Regent Square.

Events that could add more traffic to the mix include the 33rd Latin American & Caribbean Festival at the University of Pittsburgh on Saturday and a Penguins game Sunday night at Consol Energy Center.

Westbound tunnel closures last year added about 1 12 hours to inbound motorists' travel times, said Jim Struzzi, spokesman for the PennDOT district that includes Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties.

“We haven't had any (eastbound) closures yet, so we don't know what to expect in terms of how traffic will react,” Struzzi said before predicting delays would be “at least as long” as last year's.

The four-mile detour will be in reverse of one used last year. The route again will vary depending on the time of day, going through a more residential area of Squirrel Hill during daytime hours and more commercial stretches of Forbes and Murray avenues at night.

All outbound motorists will get off the Parkway East at the Squirrel Hill exit and turn left onto Forward Avenue. From 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, motorists will turn left onto Beechwood Boulevard, right onto Forbes Avenue and right onto South Braddock Avenue to get back to the highway. From 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily, motorists will turn left onto Murray, right onto Forbes and right onto South Braddock.

Struzzi advised motorists to consider alternate routes, such as exiting the Parkway East at Forbes Avenue and taking it through the heart of Oakland. Motorists can turn left onto South Bellefield Avenue, right onto Fifth Avenue, right onto Penn Avenue, continue through Wilkinsburg and get back on the Parkway East in Forest Hills.

Similar eastbound tunnel closures and detours will occur April 5-8, April 19-22 and April 26-29. Additional closures will be announced.

Contractors are allowed to close the Squirrel Hill Tunnel's eastbound tunnel for as many as eight weekends as part of the $49.5 million renovation project that began last year and expected to continue into next year.

Crews are increasing the clearance in the eastbound tunnel by 15 inches, to 14 feet, 9 inches. Electrical, ventilation, structural and other improvements will be made.

The inbound tunnel closed four times last year. Additional weekend closures will be needed this year to complete rehabilitation work, Struzzi said. They have not been scheduled.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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