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Weekend traffic jam session expected on Pittsburgh's roadways

James Knox | Tribune-Review
Start with a Pittsburgh Steelers home preseason game, add a top-flight religious gathering and stir in a national truckers convention and you have a recipe for a major traffic tangle on Saturday of the kind Pittsburgh sees during its biggest celebrations.

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Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014, 10:48 p.m.
 

Start with a Pittsburgh Steelers home preseason game, add a top-flight religious gathering and stir in a national truckers convention and you have a recipe for a major traffic tangle on Saturday of the kind Pittsburgh sees during its biggest celebrations.

And that's not counting a blues concert on the North Shore during the day and a Yanni concert in the evening at the Benedum Center.

“The last time like that was the Fourth of July. I deliberately avoided Downtown because I didn't want to be trapped down there,” said Ronando Long, an Uber ride-share driver. “It can be like a bear trap, in that it takes forever to get out of.”

Forming the trap for drivers: The Steelers will take on the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field starting at 7:30 p.m., while the second night of the free Festival of Hope religious revival starts at 7 p.m. at Consol Energy Center. The American Trucking Associations will be wrapping up a convention at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center into Saturday evening. Construction projects could cause choke points for drivers on their way in and out, PennDOT officials said.

“We're anticipating another really busy weekend in downtown Pittsburgh,” said Craig Davis, president and CEO of VisitPittsburgh.

To help, off-duty and on-duty Pittsburgh police officers will be assigned to security and traffic control at Heinz Field and Consol Energy Center, spokeswoman Sonya Toler said.

About 10,000 to 12,000 people could visit Consol for the second night of the three-night Festival of Hope, organizers said, though the event is free to the public and the event can accommodate as many as 16,000 people in Consol Energy Center. Heinz can fit up to 65,000 football fans, although the game was not sold out as of Thursday evening.

Elizabeth Barna, spokeswoman for the trucking association, said she didn't anticipate the convention crowd of about 2,500 adding too much to the traffic. All of the trucks and equipment for the skills competitions inside the convention center will be driven to local trucking companies' yards off-site once the competition is over and conference attendees adjourn to a banquet and awards ceremony.

The Carnegie Science Center will host an hourlong blues performance by local musician Joe Grushecky starting about 1 p.m. The Science Center will close at 4 p.m. to make way for the football crowds next door at Heinz Field.

“We've learned from experience that it's easier if we just close at 4 on home game nights,” said Director of Marketing Susan Zimecki. “It makes the traffic around here a lot more manageable.”

Congestion is likely at a couple of points where PennDOT has construction: The detour for the closed inbound Liberty Tunnel along Route 51 to the Parkway West and the Fort Pitt Tunnels could get backed up in the afternoon as people arrive. But it shouldn't affect traffic leaving at the end of the evening because the outbound tunnel remains open.

Leaving the North Shore via Route 28 likely will be slow because of a long-term lane closure outbound between East Ohio Street and the 31st Street Bridge, said PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan. The outbound Veterans Bridge and Parkway North should be clear on the way out, and the HOV lanes will be open outbound as well, he said.

Overnight single-lane closures are scheduled for the Squirrel Hill Tunnels, but those won't begin until about an hour after the end of the Steelers game, so as long as fans don't linger they shouldn't be caught in closure-related traffic on the Parkway East, Cowan said.

Tailgaters or Downtown diners should note that PennDOT will restrict traffic on inbound Route 28 in O'Hara for repaving, which is expected to cause single-lane closures between Fox Chapel and Route 8 from 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We anticipate that traffic's going to be a lot heavier than usual, and we want motorists to adjust their schedules accordingly,” said Pennsylvania State Police spokeswoman Trooper Robin Mungo. “We highly recommend all motorists allow themselves extra time and be aware of where traffic always slows down.”

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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