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Route 28 drivers learn to cope with detours

| Thursday, April 12, 2001

Expressway snarl not too bad
Here's a look at what the Route 28 expressway traffic was like during three time periods Wednesday - shortly after midnight when traffic was non-existent, then the following morning.

Valley News Dispatch reporter Jeff Jones drove the route four times, timing each trip and measuring the distance.

Inbound without traffic (after midnight)

  • From Harmar (Exit 11) to Highland Park Bridge: 8 minutes, 6 miles.

  • From Highland Park Bridge to Pittsburgh (North Shore) following the Highland Park Bridge detour: 13 minutes, 7 miles.

  • Total trip from Harmar to Pittsburgh via Highland Park Bridge detour: 21 minutes, 13 miles

  • From Harmar exit to Route 8 exit (Exit 5): 11 minutes, 9 miles

    Inbound Wednesday, 7 to 9 a.m.

  • From Harmar exit to Highland Park Bridge: 11 minutes, 6 miles.

  • The Highland Park Bridge detour: 10 minutes, 2 miles.

  • South of the detour to Pittsburgh's North Shore: 3 minutes.

  • Total trip from Harmar to Pittsburgh via Highland Park Bridge detour: 25 minutes, 13 miles.

  • From Harmar exit to Route 8 exit: 10 minutes, 9 miles.

    Outbound Wednesday morning

  • From Pittsburgh to Harmar exit: (7 a.m.) 10 minutes; (8:30 a.m.) 27 minutes.
  • Traffic slugged along the Route 28 expressway inbound and outbound during Wednesday morning's rush hour, but traffic flow was improved from the gridlock that caused major delays Tuesday evening.

    Wednesday was the first morning rush hour traffic since an expressway bridge at Etna closed for $7.7 million in repairs.

    About 60,000 commuters use the Route 28 expressway daily.

    'People (Tuesday) just weren't reading the signs, or if they were, they didn't believe the road was closed,' said Joe Sutara, PennDOT project manager for the Etna

    interchange project. 'That's pretty indicative of what happens in a major closure.'

    Wednesday-morning commuters followed the official PennDOT detour across Highland Park Bridge onto Butler Street to the 62nd Street Bridge and back onto Route 28. That smoothed the traffic flow inbound, Sutara said.

    The Highland Park Bridge detour is about 2 miles long and takes five minutes to drive without traffic. In the middle of rush hour at about 8 a.m. Wednesday, it took about 10 minutes to go through that detour.

    'It's more in line with what we expected,' Sutara said.

    Travel times were punctual both inbound and outbound from 7 to 9 a.m. through the construction zone corridor. Some minor delays occurred along the outbound lanes Û-mile before the Highland Park Bridge exit.

    But traffic flowed steadily in the inbound lanes to Route 8 and the Highland Park Bridge exit.

    A significant amount of traffic switched to other inbound routes such as the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Route 376 East, or using suburban roads such as Route 910 to Kittanning Street and connecting with the Route 28 expressway there.

    This type of traffic shakeout is a usual process with significant road projects, Sutara said.

    PennDOT officials worked with 13 local police officers from Etna, Sharpsburg and Pittsburgh to man traffic signals along the detour routes where traffic was heavy, such as Baker Street and Butler Street.

    State police were stationed along the Route 28 expressway inbound near the Harmar exit (Exit 11).

    'There where no problems from our standpoint,' state Trooper Brad Jordan said.

    But commuters still are worried about the Route 28 expressway and its looming delays.

    'It's nasty,' said Ron Kozak, 39, of Washington, Pa. 'Even the detours where they send you are under construction.'

    PennDOT crews are driving the same detour routes as other commuters to find the best possible routes, Sutara said.

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