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Headed to town? Not on Parkway

| Thursday, April 3, 2008

The first Parkway East shutdown of the year is expected to start Friday night.

The weekend closing of the inbound lanes -- weather permitting -- will be one of nine shutdowns PennDOT scheduled for Interstate 376 this year during its $22.8 million project between the Churchill and Edgewood-Swissvale exits.

It is the third consecutive year of construction on the highway, with previous years' work centered on sections in Oakland and Downtown.

"It's our turn," said Churchill Manager Craig Robinson.

This year's improvement plan covers nearly three miles of the highway used weekdays by about 86,000 vehicles and weekends by about 30,000. It includes work on 15 bridges, ramps and the highway as it extends through Pittsburgh, Swissvale, Edgewood, Braddock Hills, Wilkinsburg, Forest Hills and Churchill.

The project, scheduled through winter, is part of $350 million in state road construction planned in Allegheny County this year, PennDOT District 11 Executive Dan Cessna said Wednesday during a news conference held at the parkway's Churchill exit.

"We've got a lot of projects scheduled," he said. "We're on a good improvement trend but the backlog is huge."

Late-night work started yesterday on the inbound lanes and is planned again for tonight, starting at 9. One inbound lane will remain open and all lanes are scheduled to reopen by 5 a.m. Friday.

From 9 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Monday, all inbound lanes will close and drivers will be detoured off at the Churchill exit. A posted detour will guide drivers onto William Penn Highway, which becomes Penn Avenue. After passing through Wilkinsburg's business district, the detour will guide drivers onto South Braddock Avenue and back to the parkway.

Cessna cautioned that work might be postponed because of poor weather.

PennDOT is patching and resurfacing areas of South Braddock that are in poor condition to help accommodate the traffic, Cessna said.

Police officers will be posted at intersections to keep the detoured traffic flowing. State police will monitor the work areas.

"Our job is to make sure each motorist is obeying the speed limit," said Trooper Robin Mungo. "Just make sure you've given yourself enough time to get where you're going."

Cessna anticipates traffic on the detour route will move more smoothly than during last year's work.

"We feel it is going to flow better because the detour is shorter and not as winding," he said.

Churchill police officers will be among those guiding drivers.

"There's going to be a lot of traffic," Robinson said. "Residents know the back ways around, and hopefully the people cutting through don't."

The highway was built in the late 1940s and early '50s. The last rehabilitation project was in the early '80s.

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