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Traffic moves smoothly as fans converge on North Shore for doubleheader

| Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, 11:49 a.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
A parking lot attendant takes payments from fans on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, before the Steelers’ game against the Chicago Bears in Heinz Field.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Fans look for parking space on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, before the Steelers-Chicago Bears football game in Heinz Field.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Ken Goblinger of Greensburg turns the heads of Pirates fans while he waits to park his “Steelers Emergency Tailgate Response Unit” on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013 on the North Shore.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Pirates fans began their tailgating before noon on the North Shore on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh’s city government appears to be scoring big from the construction of the city’s three major sports venues and related public facilities, reaping more than $100 million over the past five years from projects it barely supported financially, a report released Tuesday shows.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Pirates fans tailgate at PNC Park on the North Shore Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Pirates fans tailgate on the North Shore on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. The Pirates were slated to play the Reds at PNC Park in the afternoon, followed by a prime-time game at nearby Heinz Field between the Steelers and Chicago Bears.

In the end, the Pirates played the Reds and the Steelers played the Bears and the North Shore was left standing.

There was the usual crowded racket on the streets and in the parking lots that precedes every Steelers home game. There were frayed nerves and short tempers, too, resulting from the first time a Steelers regular-season night game at Heinz Field followed an afternoon Pirates game at PNC Park.

Both were sellouts, so the combined attendance exceeded 100,000. But dire predictions of apocalyptic traffic and parking chaos were proven wrong.

“It was unprecedented, and I think most people understood that,” said Chris Retenauer, a supervisor with Alco Parking, which owns or controls 19 lots near the stadiums. “For the most part, it went pretty well. There were some speed bumps along the way, but we were trying to prevent the perfect storm and I think we succeeded.”

As if there were a hurricane bearing down, the public was kept informed all week and advised to take precautions. But instead of boarding up windows and evacuating the area, the messages were to park elsewhere — the farther away, the better — and for Steelers fans to stay away from the North Shore until 6 p.m., or more than 2½ hours before kickoff.

For some hardy tailgaters, that was not nearly enough time. But many dutifully obeyed. Some showed up later than usual, others not at all. As game time approached, some of the lots remained strangely devoid of cars.

“I think people held off,” said Pittsburgh police officer George DeVault, who is responsible for police staffing on Steelers game days. “That was a huge thing, not trying to force your way in.”

DeVault said an added police presence helped. So did the Pirates' dispiriting 11-3 loss. Because of the blowout, it was unnecessary to heed fliers and roadside signs urging fans to leave as quickly as possible after the game. Many left during the game and several lots opened sooner than advertised. Even the blocked access to the North Shore, which was supposed to last from 4 to 6 p.m., ended 30 minutes early.

“We've got the Pirates (fans) out, we're workin' on gettin' the Steelers (fans) in. Everything's runnin' smooth,” DeVault said about 5:30 p.m. from his perch on Mt. Washington,

The day wasn't entirely smooth for some of the fans who expected to park in a certain lot but were told to come back later. One fan had a spirited discussion with an attendant about not getting into his assigned lot because it was for Pirates' pass-holders only. He noted more than once that he is a 10-year season-ticket holder and called the situation “a joke.”

Grant Duncan, a Bears fan who drove 6½ hours from Valparaiso, Ind., said the Steelers parking pass he bought online turned out to be for a Pirates-only lot.

“What are we supposed to do, drive in circles?” he asked before finding a place to park until he could move his car at 6 p.m. to his assigned location.

Some lots stayed closed longer than expected. At 9:30 a.m., Greensburg resident Ken Goblinger was lined up in his “Steelers Emergency Tailgate Response Unit” — a converted ambulance — expecting quick entry to his lot. But it would not open for a few more hours while other lots were being filled.

“We're going to hang out until they let us in,” he said. “It is what it is.”

“I learned one thing in the Army,” said Larry Flowers, an Alco manager. “You adapt, you adjust, you overcome.”

But, he noted, “I hope this doesn't happen again.”

Bob Cohn and Tory N. Parrish are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Cohn can be reached at 412-320-7810, or via Twitter@BCohn_Trib. Parrish can be reached at 412-380-5662 or

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