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Tunnel vision: It's a long, winding road of delays

| Saturday, July 27, 2013, 9:59 p.m.

Tunnel closures and construction projects created long delays for drivers Saturday, particularly on the Parkway East where the outbound Squirrel Hill Tunnel is closed.

“It was like a parking lot,” said Jose Carvallo, 32, of Brookline, who was heading outbound about 1 p.m. “It took me an hour to get from Oakland to the Squirrel Hill exit.”

The Squirrel Hill Tunnel's outbound lanes closed at 10 p.m. Friday and will reopen at 6 a.m. Monday so workers can replace concrete slabs, test the ventilation system and make other improvements as part of a $49.5 million project.

Signs directed motorists to take Parkway East's Squirrel Hill exit and turn left onto Forward Avenue. From 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, the posted detour will follow Beechwood Boulevard, Forbes Avenue and South Braddock Avenue. From 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily, it will take motorists along Murray Avenue, Forbes and South Braddock.

The Liberty Tunnel's outbound lanes also closed at 10 p.m. Friday and will reopen at 6 a.m. Aug. 12 so workers can replace the concrete arch at the tunnel's exit and the arch wall in the middle of the tunnel. PennDOT is spending $18.8 million on improvements. The detour will follow McArdle Roadway, Merrimac Street, Woodruff Street and Saw Mill Run Boulevard.

Port Authority said the opening of the Wabash Tunnel could help alleviate some of the outbound congestion. Wabash opened at 6 a.m. Saturday after being closed since mid-April.

The tunnel is a shortcut between West Carson Street near Station Square and Route 51. It closed in April so workers could repair the gate system that controls traffic based on what time it is. A tractor-trailer crash in October damaged the gates and controls. Port Authority estimated the repair costs at $60,000. About 500 cars per weekday have historically used the tunnel, Port Authority spokeswomanHeather Pharo said.

“We're glad to be reopening the tunnel especially with the Liberty Tunnel closure,” Pharo said.

On weekends, the Wabash Tunnel is only open outbound and closes nightly from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“There's a high number of accidents and DUI arrests during that time so for safety reasons we decided to close it during those times,” Pharo said.

Construction near the McKees Rocks Bridge and Route 65 also caused delays for motorists Saturday.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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