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Route 28 flow: Enjoy it while you can

| Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, 11:07 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Traffic along Route 28 North bound flows unimpeded on Monday as two lanes of traffic are open both inbound and outbound.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Traffic along Route 28 North bound flows unimpeded on Monday as two lanes of traffic are open both inbound and outbound.

Monday marked a turning point for commuters on Route 28: the first time in three years they found both outbound lanes open.

That makes people in Etna happy, said borough Manager Mary Ellen Ramage.

“We are already getting a lot of people who say it is much easier to get here,” she said.

Only one northbound lane has been open since August 2010, causing bottlenecks during rush hour commutes and even at other times.

“It has been a difficult situation for motorists for a number of years,” said Steve Cowan, a PennDOT spokesman, who promised drivers would notice “a definite improvement.”

The second lane will last for only 14 weeks, however.

Crews expect to begin the project's fifth phase in January. That will close a northbound lane and put motorists into the right lane from East Ohio Street to the 31st Street Bridge.

About 60,000 vehicles travel that section of the road each day.

The $100 million project's final phase will end late next year, according to Cowan.

“It is one of the more expensive projects, but improvements have been needed for many, many years,” he said.

Most projects do not come close to that cost, he said. The Squirrel Hill Tunnel rehabilitation will cost $49.5 million, and the Hulton Bridge replacement will cost $64.8 million.

The work on Route 28, which started in September 2009, adds access ramps and eliminates traffic lights between Pittsburgh and Kittanning.

The work has frustrated motorists and residents of communities along the highway. A Facebook page, I Hate Route 28, attracted 6,273 likes.

“This project has been under construction longer than most,” Cowan said.

At times, PennDOT closed the road and routed traffic through Etna's streets, Ramage said.

While crews reopened the lanes over the weekend, they detoured southbound traffic onto the 40th Street Bridge.

“That caused traffic to back up a lot,” Cowan said. “There were several large events, like Pirates games and a Pitt Panthers game on Saturday.”

Rick Wills is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7944 or rwills@tribweb.com.

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