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T rail line to be closed in Downtown, North Shore all weekend

Tom Fontaine
| Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, 10:40 a.m.
Pirates fans use the North Shore Connector as they make their way to PNC Park for the home opener Thursday, April 5, 2012. The T light-rail system in Downtown and the North Shore will be closed for rail repairs all day on Aug. 4 and 5.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Pirates fans use the North Shore Connector as they make their way to PNC Park for the home opener Thursday, April 5, 2012. The T light-rail system in Downtown and the North Shore will be closed for rail repairs all day on Aug. 4 and 5. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review

No offense, Billy Ocean.

Transportation agencies are taking advantage of this weekend's relative shortage of major events to ramp up construction and maintenance work in and around Pittsburgh.

Port Authority will close sections of the T light-rail system in Downtown, the North Shore and South Hills all day on Saturday and Sunday. PennDOT plans more work than usual on major arteries.

“We pay attention to the events that are scheduled. With the Pirates out of town and few big events planned, we want to take advantage of that this weekend,” said PennDOT spokesman Jim Struzzi.

Even a spokeswoman for one of the region's biggest boosters concedes it'll be a relatively slow weekend.

“It sure looks like it,” said Connie George with VisitPittsburgh, the official tourism promotion agency for Allegheny County.

Pedal Pittsburgh, expected to attract as many as 4,000 bicyclists, could be the biggest draw. Other events include the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication conference, concluding Saturday, which attracted 2,000 attendees to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown; Steelers training camp in Latrobe, which could be affected by the Squirrel Hill Tunnel closure; a concert by '80s R&B star Billy Ocean at The Rivers Casino; and a concert headlined by Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller in Burgettstown.

PennDOT plans to close the Squirrel Hill Tunnel for the second consecutive weekend as part of a $49.4 million upgrade and put in place lane closures and other traffic restrictions along Route 28, the Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne bridges, Crosstown Boulevard and busy Banksville Road.

“We're trying to keep projects on schedule. We will be up against winter before you know it,” Struzzi said.

Loram Maintenance of Way Inc. in Hamel, Minn., will grind T tracks to smooth uneven spots caused by wear and tear, said agency spokeswoman Heather Pharo. The agency awarded Loram a $1.3 million contract in March to grind tracks throughout the 26.2-mile T system.

“The last large-scale grinding was performed about 10 years ago. Industry standard is to do this every five to 10 years,” Pharo said.

The bulk of the Downtown subway system opened in the mid-1980s, though the $517 million extension from the Gateway station to North Shore opened in March. Pharo said crews will do light rail grinding work on the 1.2-mile extension to shape the tracks to “better match our wheels.”

Closed T stations include First Avenue, Steel Plaza, Wood Street and Gateway in Downtown, and North Side and Allegheny on the North Shore. Buses will run in both directions between the stations. Transfers from the T to buses will be free for inbound riders at First Avenue.

Port Authority will shut down Blue Line-Library T service this weekend between Lytle station in Bethel Park and Library station in South Park so crews can replace a rail crossing.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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