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Route 28 traffic is snarled worse than ever

| Thursday, Jan. 6, 2005

Now that PennDOT's project to improve Route 28 near Etna is nearly finished, traffic is snarled worse than ever.

Most of the project was supposed to be finished by Dec. 10, but it won't be completed until late this month.

Only two of four inbound lanes south of Etna are open, and traffic is slowing to a crawl through the work zone.

The partial reopening combined with "some new work at the end of the inbound lanes" has created a bottleneck, said Rudy Lubic, a project inspector who works for GAI Consultants Inc. of Monroeville.

During the morning rush hour one morning last week, inbound traffic backed halfway to the Highland Park Bridge from Etna.

Berniece Bradley, of Tarentum, who takes Route 28 to Bloomfield each day, said her 20-minute commute has doubled.

"The drive in the last couple of days has taken a lot longer," Bradley said. "I can't wait until it's over. It's just been awful."

The new late this month target for completing most of the job hinges on the weather cooperating. A winter blast will further delay the work.

About 90,000 motorists a day are affected by the work, including about 30,000 who use Route 8 to get to Route 28. They have faced a detour through Etna.

PennDOT is paying the Trumbull Corp. of West Mifflin $28.6 million to replace the inbound Route 28 bridge over Etna and to widen a connecting stretch of the highway.

The project was started in March, and most of it was to be completed by Dec. 10.

An on-ramp from Sharpsburg isn't expected to be done until the spring. The far-right inbound lane of Route 28 -- fed by the Sharpsburg ramp -- will remain closed until the ramp is finished.

Two of four inbound Route 28 lanes south of Etna are open. The other two are at least a month behind schedule, said PennDOT project manager Brad Miller.

The good news is that the project has progressed far enough to lift the Route 8 detour, Miller said.

"Our objective as the winter approached was to get the detour off the streets in Etna," he said. "Along with that, our other concern was that the southbound traffic was in a chute that had bare walls on both sides. That's a headache if you have to clear a snowfall."

Lubic said most of the work, "except for the ramp from Sharpsburg," will be finished late this month "if the weather holds."

The project was delayed early on when a waterline to be moved couldn't be found under a section of Route 28. PennDOT paid Trumbull an extra $1.4 million on its original $26.4 million contract to continue working into winter so motorists were not detoured again in 2005 and to cover the additional waterline work.

Jim Ritchie is a staff writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

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