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By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Route 51/88 intersection project will alleviate congestion in area

 


Plans for a $19 million reconfiguration project designed to alleviate congestion at the Route 51/88 intersection drew about 125 local residents to the St. Norbert’s meeting hall on Dec. 9.

The presentation was conducted by members of the project team comprised of project owner PennDOT; contractor Joseph B. Fay Company; construction support Michael Baker Jr ., Inc .; project design SAI Consulting Engineers; and others.

Work on utility relocation, demolition, and jughandles -- or loops permiting vehicles to make indirect left turns or U turns -- is currently underway.

The project involves replacement of five bridges; construction of a new bridge; turning lane construction; roadway reconstruction; signal upgrades; lighting, sidewalk, and drainage improvements; closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras; and stream bank restoration.

New vehicular and pedestrian signal heads, mast arms, audible pedestrian push buttons with vibrotactile arrows, and controller assemblies will be installed at the 51/88 and 51/Stewart Ave. intersections to improve

mobility.

A permanent, two-lane jughandle for northbound Route 51 motorists that will veer them onto Route 88 and Glenbury St. is a prime feature of the project.

It will loop around Rite Aid, replacing the left turn lane that causes frequent logjams at the intersection.

There will also be a second jughandle for southbound motorists replacing the need to turn left at Ivyglen St.

The project is scheduled for completion in November, 2015.

The work began in June. The progress to date includes: structures demolition is 95 percent complete;

the new jughandle roadway is 30 percent complete; Bridge 4 on the jughandle is 80 percent complete; and an elliptical pipe for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is completed.

The project challenges include: utilities (above and below ground); maintenance of traffic (daily traffic control checks; temporary traffic signals); confined work areas (crews in and around traffic); and weather/flooding.

PennDOT will maintain four lanes of traffic on Route 51 during peak travel times. Off-peak closures and restrictions are also planned.

The work will be done in three phases, which will involve detours.

In Phase 1, the Ivyglen detour will last from Dec ., 2013 to May, 2014. Motorists who typically use Ivyglen will have to use the posted detour on Underwood St. (.5 miles).

In the Stewart Ave. detour from Jan ., 2014 to May, 2014, all Stewart Ave. traffic will utilize a four-mile detour. Provost Rd. will become one lane for about 250 linear feet.

In Phase 2, the traffic on Fairhaven Rd. will also utilize a four-mile detour, while access to residences and businesses on Fairhaven Rd. will remain for the duration of the work.

The detour duration is from May, 2014 to Oct ., 2014.

In Phase 3, the detour duration will be from April, 2015 to Aug ., 2015.

It includes: Route 88 becoming one way (south bound), and north bound traffic utilizing an 11-mile detour.

Access to businesses along Route 88 will be maintained.

Residents’ point-of-contact throughout the project will be the Airport Corridor Transportation Association (ACTA).

For project questions, call the project hotline at 412-533-4606. Executive director Lynn Manion told callers to leave a message, and someone will try to get back with an answer within 48 hours.

In the question/answer session which concluded the evening, residents asked about rerouted buses, pedestrian access, the congested 51/Maytide St. intersection and more.

The answers were: bus routes will be changed slightly, and posted in advance; pedestrian access will be maintained; and the project will not alleviate the 51/Maytide St. intersection congestion.

District Justice Richard King asked if the residents who live above Hillview St ., and travel northbound, would be able to access the jughandle lane to travel up Hillview St.

The answer was yes.

Mr. King also asked: When vehicles are temporarily using the jughandle lane for inbound traffic, do officials anticipate a backup past Greenlee Rd. on Route 51 in Brentwood? That causes huge problems for residents of Carrick.

The answer was no.

Mr. King said the permanent jughandle will improve inbound traffic to some extent as the lane will go to Route 88 and Glenbury St ., thereby eliminating the left hand turn lane.

In the meantime, there will be detours to contend with.

Mr. King said he thinks the detour route is inadequate for those on Ivyglen St.

“They want them to use Underwood St ., and make a left turn onto 51 to access (Rt.) 88 and Glenbury St ., which is very dangerous anytime, let alone during rush hour,” he said.

“I think they should have been honest with the residents who live in the immediate construction area.

“This will be terrible until it is done,” he said of the project.

 

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