Drivers keep their cool during Parkway East's weekend closure
Despite the region's most heavily traveled highway being closed for the weekend, traffic headaches were not as bad as expected.
The drive between Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg took double the usual time Saturday because of the closed Parkway East.
It took about 30 minutes to navigate detours on Fifth, Penn and Forbes avenues — a trip that usually would take about 15 minutes in light traffic on the parkway — with police officers and flaggers posted at major intersections to keep vehicles moving.
“Traffic is not bad out here,” said Dan Worley, 43, of Irwin, a driver for Uber, an app-based ride-share service. He speculated that people were avoiding highway travel through the area.
“People, I think, have listened to all the advisories and took alternate routes,” Pittsburgh Public Works Director Mike Gable said. “We realize there are some backups in places, but all in all, I think it's going as well as can be expected.”
Larry Ragin, 52, of Duquesne, who drove the detour route both inbound and outbound Saturday afternoon, said he expected longer backups.
“It took me an extra 10, 15 minutes,” he said.
Vehicles were backed up at Bellefield Avenue in Oakland and at traffic lights along Forbes, Fifth and Penn. Inbound vehicles were lined up several blocks from the parkway to Swissvale Avenue in Wilkinsburg.
“People were complaining. They say it's a crappy day to travel,” said Connie Howard, a clerk at Murray's Exxon at Swissvale and Penn in Wilkinsburg.
Eric McCartney, 28, of Washington drove a friend to Wilkinsburg. He said his biggest problem was getting lost on city streets.
“I don't know where I'm going,” he said,
Sonya Toler, spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh Public Safety Department, said police were not called for any accidents or road rage incidents.
Kenny Thompson, a flagger for Ellsworth-based Frontline Flagging, was stopping eastbound traffic on Penn Avenue to allow westbound motorists to turn onto Fifth Avenue in Point Breeze.
“Some of them beep the horn at you,” he said. “These people don't understand sometimes why I'm stopping them.”
Gable said the city was using police from Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County for traffic patrol and flaggers supplied by the bridge construction company.
PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said construction has closed the Parkway East and the Parkway West overnight, but this was the first weekend closure.
Pittsburgh is replacing the Greenfield Bridge, which crosses the Parkway East, also known as Interstate 376, between Oakland and Wilkinsburg.
Closures are scheduled for the weekend of Dec. 4 and the week after Christmas for the planned implosion of the bridge.
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or email@example.com.