Outbound 376 reopened after man on exit sign caused closure

| Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, 8:15 a.m.

A man threatening to jump from a sign overlooking outbound Interstate 376 in Green Tree caused major traffic delays on Saturday morning until Allegheny County police negotiators coaxed him down.

So began a day that officials had expected to become a traffic nightmare with nearly overlapping sporting events and a popular rib fest, all on the North Shore.

But thousands of fans left Heinz Field early from a game with a noon start as Pitt trounced Delaware 62-0. That seemed to free up parking for arriving Pirates fans, whom officials warned to get to PNC Park early for a 4 p.m. game and plan to park elsewhere even if they had a prepaid parking pass.

“No traffic whatsoever, and I came down (Route) 279,” said Barry Mansell, 49, of Ellwood City, who arrived at the North Shore at 3:30 p.m.

Shortly before 5 a.m., Green Tree police officers spotted a man sitting on a concrete barrier along the Greentree Road overpass spanning the interstate, police Chief Bob Downey said.

He told police that he was OK, so police departed, Downey said. A short time later, the man apparently climbed a chain link fence lining the overpass and climbed onto a lighting shelf for the exit signs hanging above the overpass, he said.

PennDOT closed the outbound lanes, funneling traffic onto the Parkway Center Mall ramp, and then back onto the interstate at the Green Tree entrance, causing lengthy backups on Greentree Road and other nearby areas.

A PennDOT traffic camera showed the man alternately pacing, holding his head, sitting and crouching as negotiators talked to him from about 20 feet below on the highway.

Green Tree firefighters used a bucket lift on a firetruck to get the man down from the sign shortly before 8:30 a.m. Downey said it wasn't clear why the man was threatening to jump. Medics took the man, who wasn't identified, to an area hospital for observation.

“It's just one of those things,” said Malcolm Seaholm, 79, of Green Tree, who found himself briefly delayed on Greentree Road as he drove to the borough's park just as emergency officials were reopening roads and ramps. “It's just an incident. Things happen.”

Traffic for the noon Pitt-Delaware football game wasn't affected by the Green Tree incident, with traffic flowing smoothly throughout the morning on the main arteries into the city.

Jeff Finfrock, 55, of Peters threw a football with family members in the lot at Reedsdale Street and Tony Dorsett Drive. More than 200 spaces remained open in that lot by 11:30 a.m., and Finfrock said that's been common over the past couple of years.

“I am shocked this lot isn't full,” Finfrock said. “It's pretty empty for all the horror stories we've been hearing.”

Paramedics treated 20 people on the North Shore for heat-related medical issues Saturday afternoon, including the Pitt mascot, spokeswoman Sonya Toler said. Six people were transported to hospitals, she said.

Staff writer Bob Bauder contributed. Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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