$55 million Route 28 Highland Park project unveiled
Christmas came early for Route 28 commuters this year, gifting them with details of a $55 million project that aims to alleviate traffic congestion and improve safety along the expressway by re-establishing two travel lanes through the Highland Park Interchange (Exit 6).
On Tuesday, dozens of people attended a public meeting on the project at Fox Chapel Area High School, where officials shared an in-depth presentation and physical and digital blueprints of the proposed project.
“This is a project that we've wanted to work on for a while, but we had some other irons in the fire, and this one never really rose to the top at that point,” PennDOT District 11 Executive Cheryl Moon-Sirianni said.
She said the primary reasons for the project are congestion and safety.
The stretch is the site of chronic traffic backups during rush hours because it has been reduced to one lane in each direction, creating a bottleneck. It also has been the scene of dozens of crashes, exceeding the statewide average.
“This project is basically a project to create two lanes in each direction through the Highland Park Interchange,” Moon-Sirianni said.
Route 28 at the Highland Park Bridge originally handled two lanes of traffic both northbound and southbound, but the second lane is painted over with striping in both directions because of numerous crashes between vehicles merging to and from the Highland Park Bridge with through traffic on the expressway.
The two lanes would be added in each direction between North Canal Street/Kittanning Pike and the Delafield Avenue interchange (Exit 7).
There would be a third, designated lane for those headed northbound along Route 28 who wish to take the off ramp onto the Highland Park Bridge and a third designated lane for those headed southbound along Route 28 who wish to take the off ramp onto the bridge.
A third lane would be added along Route 28 northbound from the off ramp at the Highland Park Bridge to the Delafield Avenue interchange, and a third lane would be added for people merging onto Route 28 southbound from the Highland Park Bridge.
The project will be funded by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission Transportation Improvement Program, which determines what highway projects get funding. It is in the preliminary engineering phase with final design to occur in 2018 and 2019. Construction is scheduled for 2020 and 2021.
PennDOT Project Manager Erik Porter said Route 28 traffic would be maintained during construction, however the ramps to and from the Highland Park and Freeport Road interchanges would be detoured.
Here are additional details officials shared at the meeting:
• Noise walls would be added in certain areas along the stretch. A meeting will be held next year to present noise wall specifics with owners and renters who would be affected by increased noise, and they would vote on whether they are in favor of a proposed wall.
• There would be reconstruction of the Route 28 ramps with the Highland Park Bridge and Freeport Road, including the addition of traffic lights at some of the ramps.
Several people raised concerns about the proposed noise walls and the state of the ramp at Virginia Avenue Extension, which at least two attendees said was the biggest hazard on Route 28.
“I get stuck in it every day,” one man said. “That's the biggest issue on this highway. It (needs to be) looked at.”
Robert Borland of Cheswick said he came to the meeting specifically to see what officials would be doing about the Virginia Avenue Extension entrance onto Route 28.
“(Drivers) enter there and cross both lanes of traffic to go across Highland Park Bridge, and I've been nearly wrecked there numerous times,” said Borland, 88. “I hope they close that entrance way.”
Officials said the Route 28 on-ramp from Virginia Avenue Extension will remain.