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West Carson work means headaches for commuters and area businesses

| Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013, 11:52 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Traffic backs up approaching the West End Bridge from Carson Street, Tuesday, August 13, 2013. Both outbound lanes of West Carson Street have been closed to McKees Rocks as part of a $39 million construction project expected to last two years.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Traffic progresses on one lane of the inbound West Carson Street towards the West End, Tuesday, August 13, 2013. Both outbound lanes of West Carson Street have been closed to McKees Rocks as part of a $39 million construction project expected to last two years.

Closing the outbound lanes of West Carson Street from the West End Bridge to McKees Rocks is causing headaches for some business owners and for motorists snaking through a detour — and there's two years to go.

The closure started Aug. 3, kicking off the first phase of a $39 million construction project. Work will include replacing a 335-foot, structurally deficient viaduct that supports part of Route 51 between the West End Circle and Stanhope Street just north of the Corliss Tunnel.

“It's a mess, but it's as good as can be expected, I guess,” said Pittsburgh police Sgt. James LeVier. “Just plan ahead and be a little more patient if you're coming through the area.”

He said PennDOT officials have tried to make changes to ease traffic congestion as problems arise.

PennDOT posted detours on the West End Bridge, Route 65 and the McKees Rocks Bridge. Inbound traffic will travel in a single lane on West Carson Street, which will remain open to pedestrians throughout the project. The work is expected to be complete by late August 2015.

PennDOT said in July the department would monitor the detour route, deploying police officers at key intersections and adjusting traffic signals to try to minimize delays. Spokesman Steve Cowan said about 8,000 drivers use outbound West Carson on a typical day, and so far no accidents have been reported.

“Changing the traffic pattern caused some pretty heavy confusion that first day, so we put up more signs and stationed police officers at four intersections during peak hours,” Cowan said. “It always takes motorists a few days to adjust.”

Cars weaving around Pacific Pride's diesel pumps struggled through tight traffic in the evening rush hour Tuesday where a newly installed traffic light at West Carson and Riverside streets slowed traffic.

Butch Battaglia, co-owner of Battaglia Auto Recycling around the corner, said he received less than two weeks' notice from authorities about the detour. Drivers have been using the business's driveway to avoid the congested roadway.

“They put the light out here for us. They've got cops. They're trying, but whether that will affect my business, only time will tell,” Battaglia said.

Crews are scheduled to resurface cracked pavement, rebuild broken sidewalks and replace aging railings and utility lines while upgrading the drainage system, lights and traffic signals.

Pedestrian improvements include building a wider sidewalk between the West End Bridge and its busway entrance with a crossing just beyond. The sidewalk will shift to the inland side from there to Stanhope Street with additional clearance space for trucks and buses.

Police officers will be stationed at four intersections from 6 to 10 a.m. and from 3 to 7 p.m., including at the West End Circle, West End Bridge and Route 65, Route 65 and the McKees Rocks Bridge, and the Route 837 ramp to northbound Route 51, which is closed to through traffic.

Port Authority of Allegheny County spokeswoman Heather Pharo said riders should expect delays on outbound detours for bus routes using West Carson and the West Busway. All routes in the 2-mile corridor are subject to altered traffic patterns.

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at mharris@tribweb.com.

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