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Steps to rebuild 28 in motion; cars aren't

| Tuesday, May 25, 2004

If you are one of the 60,000 or so daily commuters who travel to and from the city via Route 28, chances are you often have time to ponder.

Be it watching the dust collect on your dashboard while parked at the slower-than-a-John-Kerry-speech stoplight at the 31st Street Bridge or counting how many construction workers wear hip-huggers as you creep through the perpetually under-repair Etna interchange, our region's slowest roadway is a study in time, but not motion.

Here's a chance to put your idle, or idling, time to good use. PennDOT officials, the masterminds who decided the Fort Pitt Bridge was more in need of repair than the 31st and 40th street bridges, have another idea cooking. The agency is soliciting ideas for ways to rebuild the most congested part of Route 28 between Millvale and the North Side, which is slated to begin in 2008.

PennDOT will hold public meetings next month Downtown and in O'Hara -- if anybody can make it through the traffic, that is. Officials hope to come up with a plan that will save money and make everyone happy.

That's a tall order considering how much we've already fought over this smog-choked stretch of four-lane.

No one can agree on a speed limit for the road, or decide how many lanes it needs. Meanwhile, a dwindling number of families still living along Route 28 refuse to move, hoping instead that drivers will either suffer quietly or find different routes to and from the city. Various civic groups have floated roadway designs in which traffic would move above, around or below the existing road. Other ideas involve building massive retaining walls and a highway over the railroad tracks adjacent to the current roadway.

Further complicating matters are the people still attending the St. Nicholas Catholic Church along Route 28. They oppose offending God by razing the building to make room for a wider highway.

By 2008, there might not be enough people living in Pittsburgh to help pay for a road project that could cost $200 million. Nevertheless, you've got to give PennDOT credit for offering to hear the public's ideas. Officials hope that somewhere out there, sitting in a cloud of exhaust fumes, is the one idea that can make a drive along Route 28 almost bearable.

PennDOT's public meetings on the Route 28 project will be held at the Washington's Landing Department of Environmental Protection building, June 4 from 10:30 a.m. to noon; the Holiday Inn at the RIDC Park in O'Hara, June 14 from 3:30 to 7 p.m.; Three Rivers Boat House on Herr's Island, June 16 from 3 to 7 p.m.; and at the Regional Enterprise Tower, Sixth Avenue, Downtown, June 22 from 3 to 7 p.m.

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