News Column

More People Expected to Hit the Road During Labor Day

Aug 31, 2012

Jon Schmitz

The Labor Day weekend is all about not laboring, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Pennsylvania Turnpike are putting a stop to most road construction for the holiday.

It means no weekend restrictions in the Squirrel Hill Tunnels and a temporary reprieve from Parkway East closures at the "bathtub."

That will help accommodate what AAA predicts will be the heaviest travel volume seen in four years for the three-day weekend. It says 33 million Americans will venture 50 miles or more from home, an increase of 2.9 percent from last year, despite gasoline prices that are about 20 cents higher than at this time in 2011.

Western Pennsylvanians who don't have wanderlust will have plenty to do: backyard barbecues, a final visit to the pool, the Mylan Classic golf tournament at Southpointe, Pitt and WVU football, a rib fest at Heinz Field, the traditional Labor Day parade in Downtown Pittsburgh and a Pirates-Braves get-together Monday at PNC Park.

Isaac isn't invited to any of that, but there's a chance he might crash the gates. Some forecast models show the weakened remnants of the former hurricane getting here as early as Monday with greatly diminished winds but enough moisture to extinguish plenty of charcoal briquettes.

As usual, police are urging those who celebrate the weekend with alcohol to stay out of the driver's seat. State and local police will use federal grant money to set up DUI checkpoints and roving patrols.

"As we remind motorists to drive sober for the Labor Day holiday, we also want to raise awareness of the growing safety threat that drugged drivers present," PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said. "While overall DUI crashes are trending downward, we're seeing a troubling increase in drug-related crashes each year."

During last year's Labor Day weekend, there were 111 alcohol-related crashes and three fatalities along with 22 drug-related crashes, PennDOT reported.

"Despite a sluggish economy and recent rises in gas prices, the increase in expected Labor Day holiday weekend travelers is driven by improving consumer confidence compared to one year ago and Americans' unwavering desire to travel," AAA said in its traditional holiday travel forecast. If the association is correct, it would be three holidays in a row marked by increases in travel volume.

PennDOT reminded drivers that the HOV lanes on the Parkway North are open to outbound traffic from 7 p.m. today to 5 a.m. Monday with no passenger requirements.

Overnight lane closures in the inbound Squirrel Hill Tunnel won't resume until Tuesday night; same goes for overnight closures of the westbound Parkway East at Grant Street. The ramp from southbound Interstate 579-Crosstown Boulevard to the Boulevard of the Allies will remain closed.

Lane closures for Banksville Road construction will occur from 8 p.m. today to 6 a.m. Saturday, and that will be it for the weekend. Work will resume Tuesday.

And long-suffering Route 65 drivers will get a break today with the scheduled reopening of the mainline at the Marshall Avenue interchange after 13 months of construction.

Turnpike officials expect 2.1 million vehicles over the weekend, and have halted construction that closes lanes until 6 a.m. Tuesday. Drivers should expect delays and congestion during peak travel times from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. today and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday.

Track work in Beechview will detour Port Authority's Red Line this weekend. On Saturday, from the start of service until about 9 p.m., the outbound Red Line will detour via Overbrook (along Blue Line routing) from South Hills Junction to Willow-Overbrook Junction. Bus shuttles will provide outbound-only service to stops from Station Square to Potomac and a rail shuttle will operate outbound from Potomac to Overbrook Junction. Inbound Red Line service will use the regular route.

At about 9 p.m. Saturday, the Red Line will be detoured in both directions until the end of service on Sunday, with detoured service, bus shuttles and rail shuttles serving both inbound and outbound stops. Regular routing is expected to resume by start of service on Labor Day.

Parts of Broadway Avenue in Beechview will be closed to vehicular traffic at various times during the rail work.

All transit service will be on holiday schedules on Monday. About 30 bus routes will be detoured in Downtown Pittsburgh by the Labor Day parade.



Source: (c)2012 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by MCT Information Services