Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penndot Defends Tunnel Closings Business

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penndot Defends Tunnel Closings Business

Article excerpt

When the Squirrel Hill Tunnel closes for an entire weekend, the main roads in Pittsburgh's East End and some of its eastern suburbs slow to a crawl due to the traffic on the detour routes.

As a result of those backups, some Pittsburghers avoid the area at all costs, and that has one small-business owner grumbling.

Nina Wolf, one of the owners of Animal Nature, a Regent Square store that specializes in natural pet products and animal feed, said her store loses 50 to 60 percent of its weekly sales when the tunnel closes for the weekend.

"The people who do make it in are very cranky, of course," she said, adding that she and other small-business owners in the Regent Square area have wondered why the work can't be done overnight.

While the closures are a burden to businesses and likely to irritate everyone who has to travel in the area, they are necessary, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Cowan said.

Crews removed 100 feet of concrete slab in each tunnel and then poured new concrete, which needs a weekend to cure, he said. During the work on the ceilings, "you just can't have traffic going through the tunnel."

Crews also are working overnight Monday through Friday to get the three-year renovation completed on time, but those tasks "are just not as involved" as the weekend work, Mr. Cowan said.

The next closure is tentatively scheduled for the weekend of July 26. The $49.5 million rehabilitation is scheduled to be completed next summer. PennDOT listed "designated special event weekends," ensuring the tunnels wouldn't be closed for events such as the Pittsburgh Marathon, Three Rivers Arts Festival and Three Rivers Regatta as well as Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. PennDOT limited the contractor to eight closures of the eastbound tunnel and eight closures of the westbound tunnel this year. …

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