Swarm from marathon, Pirates, Pens games expected to cause traffic knots

A no parking sign is posted to a pole along Penn Avenue in the Strip District on Thursday, May 1, 2014 in preparation for Pittsburgh Marathon.
A no parking sign is posted to a pole along Penn Avenue in the Strip District on Thursday, May 1, 2014 in preparation for Pittsburgh Marathon.
Photo by Trib Total Media
| Thursday, May 1, 2014, 11:09 p.m.

No matter what Sunday's weather forecast is, the traffic forecast for Downtown Pittsburgh is locked in.

It's going to be congested.

With more than 175,000 people expected to descend on the city for the Pittsburgh Marathon and Pirates and Penguins games, organizers are giving the same advice: Leave home early.

“Don't be afraid to come into town, but do some advanced planning, have patience and give yourself extra time,” said Pittsburgh police Lt. Ed Trapp, who helped plan the marathon traffic and security details. “With the Pirates game, fortunately the North Side (section of the marathon) should be open by 10. But parking could be an issue.”

About 28,700 runners are signed up for the full marathon, half marathon and relay. Add to that 4,000 volunteers, as many as 100,000 spectators and street closures throughout the city along the course, said Patrice Matamoros, CEO of the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon Inc. The races start at 7 a.m. Wheelchair participants start 10 minutes earlier.

“Oh, it's going to be busy. Have a Plan A and a Plan B for parking. Anyone that wants to be around the starting line should be there 1½ to 2 hours early,” Matamoros said. “The early man in wins — with traffic and parking and first access to the Porta-Potty.”

The marathon will operate a social media center where staffers answer questions via Twitter about parking garage availability, traffic and other issues. Use the hashtag #askPGHmarathon. Staffers will respond in real time as of 4 a.m. Sunday.

Downtown will see the longest traffic disruptions, with the roads closing at 5:30 a.m. and not reopening until 2:30 p.m. Roads around the starting line will close at midnight.

Trapp said 238 police officers are part of the marathon detail. An undisclosed number of security details will be on duty. Trapp said officers from the city, county, state police and several universities are part of the details. The marathon will cover the cost of the officers' pay. The city had to draft about 30 officers to fill all the open slots, Trapp said.

The spacing of events helps, officials said. The Pirates, who expect 30,000 fans, start at 1:30 p.m., and the Penguins, who expect a sold-out crowd of more than 18,000, start at 7:30 p.m.

“The Pirates doesn't really impact us. This is the third year with a Pirates homestand on race weekend,” Matamoros said.

Port Authority officials hope to alleviate some of the congestion, although more than 50 regular bus routes will be detoured because of the marathon. Extra service and extended hours will be available on the East and West Busways, the Mon Incline and the T. T service begins at 4 a.m. Sunday, and both inclines open at 5 a.m. Complete information is available on the Port Authority's website.

Downtown buses will be routed to serve stops near the Steel Plaza T Station, where riders can transfer for free. Routes normally serving Squirrel Hill and Oakland will not serve Oakland during the marathon, but a free shuttle will transport riders between the neighborhoods.

“It's basically the same as last year,” said Port Authority CEO Ellen McLean, who noted the agency will have an information booth at the marathon expo.

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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