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Traffic confusion minimized on first day without Greenfield Bridge

| Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, 10:27 p.m.
The roads around the closed Greenfield Bridge were mostly quiet during the first morning rush since the closure on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
The roads around the closed Greenfield Bridge were mostly quiet during the first morning rush since the closure on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.

The first weekday morning commute without the Greenfield Bridge appeared to go well.

The anticipated confusion was kept to a few localized areas. The city's chief operations officer Guy Costa observed heavy traffic on Murray Avenue, slow traffic along Beechwood Boulevard, and slow traffic along Swinburne Street, according to city reports.

“Nothing unusual or other than expected has come out of this,” read a report from Department of Public Works officials after the Monday morning commute.

Port Authority of Allegheny County, which detoured routes in September around the eventual bridge closure, reported no additional delays.

The 93-year-old Greenfield Bridge closed for good Friday in advance of an implosion and construction of another span above the Parkway East, or Interstate 376. Thousands of commuters had to find new routes.

Geoff Campbell of Greenfield, who works in the Strip District, took the Parkway East to work instead of the old bridge. The amount of traffic seemed normal, he said, but nervous anticipation continued.

“Everyone has been concerned about what's going to be happening today, and the rush hour drive home and how things will back up,” he said.

In the afternoon, PennDOT traffic cameras showed heavy traffic on Murray Avenue, moderate to heavy congestion along Beechwood Boulevard heading south, and heavy traffic along Hobart Street and Panther Hollow Road beginning at the intersection in Schenley Park closed at the bridge.

Public Works officials had consulted with researchers at Carnegie Mellon University to predict where traffic would be the worst.

Sean Qian, the head of CMU's Traffic21 Mobility Analytics Center, used congestion data from PennDOT and private research from INRIX in a computer model to simulate where traffic would head without the bridge.

The first report focused on the morning commute from 5 to 10 a.m. The model predicted an 88 percent increase in traffic along Murray Avenue likely would be the heaviest congestion. It predicted a 23 percent increase in traffic heading south along Beechwood Boulevard at Forward Avenue.

Qian said the results are meant to help inform planners about traffic problems they may need to address, such as where to re-time signals. It's the first time, to his knowledge, the computer model has been used with city planners.

“We're going to keep monitoring the traffic as we go into the next few weeks,” he said.

After observing several weeks of traffic patterns, city planners will consider whether to change traffic patterns through ramp closures or signal re-timing.

Christy Deasey, a stylist at Anya Salon on Greenfield Avenue, did not notice any obvious effects on customers or traffic. She lives in Munhall and occasionally used the bridge to get to nursing school in the city, but she found alternatives.

“I've gotten used to going around it,” she said.

More bridge-related traffic woes are likely. The city plans two yet-to-be-scheduled weekend closures of the Parkway East to allow contractors to dismantle pieces of the Greenfield Bridge. The highway will be closed for five days between Christmas and New Year's Day for the implosion and cleanup.

The new bridge, at a cost of $17.5 million, is anticipated to open in May 2017.

Melissa Daniels is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8511 or mdaniels@tribweb.com.

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