ShareThis Page

Partial reopening of Liberty Tunnel may offer detour relief in Mt. Washington

| Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, 11:58 p.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Traffic backs up on Merrimac Street in Mt. Washington while the road is being used as detour, Thursday. Neighbors complain that the heavy traffic is causing a disruption on the street.

From his front door along Merrimac Street in Mt. Washington, Ryan Bailey can see a traffic nightmare.

A detour around work on the Liberty Tunnel directs some of Pittsburgh's commuters to within 10 feet of his porch.

“Rush hour is the worst. You try and park — in front of your own house — and everyone is beeping at you,” said Bailey, 23, who lives with his girlfriend on Merrimac. “And all the noise, even with the air conditioner on, you can hear it.”

Neighbors might get a reprieve from the congestion on Monday. The outbound tunnel lanes are scheduled to reopen during the day and close from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., but the inbound tube is set to close Wednesday until Aug. 30.

Both outbound lanes closed for repairs on July 26, and PennDOT routed the traffic headed for the South Hills up McArdle Roadway and down Merrimac to Route 51.

Neighbors parked cars on the sidewalk as a precaution to prevent their sideview mirrors from being knocked off.

“Trying to back out of my driveway is a problem,” Paula Berardelli, 21, said as a flatbed tractor-trailer rumbled past. “It's most of the day. Every time I back out, I might get my back-end taken off. People are beeping and swerving. They're doing 60 mph like they're in the tunnels.”

PennDOT's inbound detour will route motorists to Route 51, onto the Interstate 376 West ramp toward Banksville Road and through the Fort Pitt Tunnel.

Residents fear many drivers will cut through Mt. Washington, anyway.

“PennDOT attempts to use state roadways for detour routes. However, in some instances, this is just not feasible,” PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said. “For the Liberty Tunnel detour we encourage motorists to use the parkway and West End Bridge. The problem is if a motorist gets to the Liberty Bridge, there is no opportunity to turn them around.”

The $18.8 million tunnel project includes repairing concrete, updating and repairing of electrical, lighting and safety systems and other improvements. About 45,000 vehicles use it on an average day. The 5,889-foot-long tunnel was built in 1924.

Sporadic weekend closures of the Squirrel Hill Tunnel over the past year routes heavy Parkway East traffic onto neighborhood streets, including Beechwood Boulevard. That tunnel is undergoing a $49.5 million improvement project, including replacement of concrete slabs and ventilation testing.

“The traffic is terrible. People will just not let you out (of a driveway),” said Howard Reck, 47, who lives along Beechwood. “I have to stand in the middle of the street so my wife can get out of the driveway with the kids.”

Bobby Kerlik is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.