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PennDOT pushes splitting Route 28 construction

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007

PennDOT wants to split its $130 million Route 28 project into phases to ensure the cost is covered in the region's next highway budget.

Rebuilding the highway from Millvale to Pittsburgh is a priority for the agency, along with other projects such as replacing the Hulton Bridge in Oakmont and improving the Parkway North through North Hills.

Splitting up the Route 28 reconstruction would help PennDOT secure enough money to pay for the work, scheduled to begin in 2009, and benefit motorists by limiting the number of delays, PennDOT District 11 Executive Dan Cessna said.

"It will improve our ability to manage traffic through the areas by not having lengthy work zones and other traffic conflicts," he said.

One benefit would be easing the daily traffic jams that clog the 31st Street Bridge and 40th Street Bridge intersections, said Richard Butler of the Three Rivers Rowing Association on nearby Herr's Island.

"The traffic light at the 31st Street Bridge is about 10 minutes long, no matter what," he said. "If you hit that light, that's when you answer your e-mail. If you call people, you tell them, 'It's OK, I'm at the 31st Street Bridge,' and they know what you mean."

PennDOT has not settled on a final plan for the project, which would eliminate the traffic signals at both bridges.

"We don't know how many pieces we're going to break that in to," Cessna said. "The 40th and 31st Street intersections definitely could be done as two separate projects."

Groups that represent local neighborhoods and historic interests lobbied PennDOT to split up the work rather than tackle it all at once.

"It seems like the logical thing to do," said Jack Schmitt, of Preservation Pittsburgh. "This plan is probably the only way they can do it."

PennDOT already has a busy 2008 schedule, which includes realigning the West End Circle and improving the Parkway East to Churchill, and Interstate 579, Boulevard of the Allies and the Parkway North to Camp Horne Road.

Projects that Cessna wants to get in the next plan, covering 2009 through 2012, are being pushed now. All work must be included in the Transportation Improvement Program, which includes projects given highway and bridge money for the next four years.

The next plan must be adopted by Oct. 1.

The work would include replacing the Hulton Bridge, which crosses the Allegheny River between Oakmont and Harmar. It also would include major projects on bridges at the Tri Boro Expressway in Swissvale and Route 65 in Pittsburgh, he said.

More money would be set aside for repaving on the Parkways North and East, as well as to finish the Route 28 improvements at the Etna bypass, including replacing the outbound bridge carrying Route 28 over other roads and ramps.

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