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Parkway East Plan Concerns Regent Square Leaders

Input is sought on a plan that could include increased traffic, pedestrian safety and negative business impacts on South Braddock Avenue, among other issues.

Leaders in the Regent Square community are letting their voices be heard about a proposed PennDOT plan for the Parkway East that includes metering or closing on-ramps during the morning and/or evening rush hours in the inner-ring communities.

Elected officials have been meeting together and with PennDOT representatives. They are working on a one-voice, multi-front campaign to raise awareness of the complexities of this traffic mitigation plan and the negative impact they believe it will have on the communities.

Of greatest impact to the immediate area would be the ramps on South Braddock in Regent Square and on Swissvale Avenue/Ardmore Boulevard. For more details, visit http://www.regentsquare-rsca.org/ParkwayRamps.htm.

"The elected officials of the City (of Pittsburgh), Swissvale, Edgewood, Forest Hills, Wilkinsburg and (Allegheny) County Council as well as the Turtle Creek Valley (Council of Governments), CONNECT and the Regent Square Civic Association are working together to represent our neighborhoods to garner support to have PennDOT reconsider spending $5 million on this study which will have a negative impact," said Pat Schaefer, Edgewood Council president. 

According to those groups, the impacts could include:

  • An increase of traffic into the residential areas during the same time that school buses are picking up and dropping off children.
  • An increase traffic congestion on South Braddock Avenue during peak times and the increase in safety concerns for bikers and pedestrians.
  • Increased wear and tear on South Braddock. This major thoroughfare is not owned by PennDOT, but has shared ownership by Swissvale, Edgewood, Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg. Municipal taxes might go up to maintain the avenue and surrounding "short cuts/rerouting." This is not part of the PennDOT budget but will be the responsibility of the municipalities. A news release from the involved groups states that "taking over South Braddock is not being advocated at this time. There is a very real concern that should that occur, PennDOT could decide to remove the onstreet parking to increase flow. That would seriously impact the local businesses and success of Regent Square."
  • Improvements/traffic studies" at intersections would cross multiple municipal jurisdictions (Edgewood, Swissvale, Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg).
  • Water, sewer and gas lines are under the streets where the study would reroute traffic and should be considered with any other rerouting proposals. Vehicle weight could damage hidden infrastructure and, sewer/storm, water and gas line repairs would impede further Parkway access to residents even more.

According to the group, PennDOT is awarding a contract for $5 million to "perform preliminary engineering, final design and construction consultation for implementation of a ramp management plan for the I-376 corridor between downtown Pittsburgh and Monroeville." The project has a nine-month schedule.

Part of the plan focuses on using ramp meters on the Parkway ramps. Ramp meters are stop-and-go traffic signals that control the frequency with which vehicles enter the flow of traffic.

A previous study by the University of Pittsburgh, commissioned by PennDOT, suggested some of the following as remedies to improve flow on the Parkway:

  • Close southbound Braddock Avenue on-ramps to westbound I-376 in the AM peak
  • Close southbound Ardmore Boulevard on-ramp to westbound I-376 in the morning peak
  • Install ramp meter on northbound Ardmore Boulevard on-ramp to westbound I-376 for use in the morning peak
  • Install ramp meter on westbound Greensburg Pike on-ramp to westbound I-376 for use in the morning peak
  • Install ramp meter on the Bates Street on-ramp to westbound I-376 for use in the afternoon peak
  • Close Beechwood Boulevard ramp to eastbound I-376 in the afternoon peak
  • Close southbound Braddock Avenue on-ramp to eastbound I-376 in the afternoon peak.

Among the local roadway network "improvements" suggested are:

  • Swissvale Avenue and Race Street—Revise pavement markings to provide an eastbound right-turn lane on Race Street. Construct new traffic signal.
  • Swissvale Avenue and Ross Avenue—Construct northbound right-turn lane on Swissvale Avenue.
  • Ardmore Boulevard and Brinton Road—Construct northbound right-turn lane on Brinton Road.
  • Hobart Street and Shady Avenue—Construct new traffic signal.
  • Ardmore Boulevard and Swissvale Avenue—Revise pavement markings to provide westbound thru lane and westbound thru/right-turn lane on Ardmore Boulevard.
  • Ardmore Boulevard and South Avenue—Install yield sign for right-in/right-out movements on South Avenue.

Regent Square Civic Association is gathering a list of questions, concerns and
suggestions for the proposed plan. Representatives from the group will meet with PennDOT later in the month to clarify and discuss the list of items.

Officials are asking residents to contact municipal council members, the Regent Square Civic Association, Allegheny County Council and state representatives with comments. Those with concerns can also contact PennDOT directly: Todd M. Kravits, district traffic engineer, PA Department of Transportation, 45 Thoms Run Road, Bridgeville, PA 15017, tkravits@pa.gov, 412-429-4975.

Residents with concerns can also write to: contact@regentsquare-RSCA.org. Make sure to include the municipality in which you live and if you are able to volunteer at a future point to help in this effort.

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Paul Gamrat November 19, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Has PennDot considered educating drivers who use 373 East daily on ways that could more effectively keep the trafficing moving. For example, drivers who are on the Parkway before Penn Hills should stay in the left hand lane to allow other drivers to merge and stay in that lane and not dart in and out of lanes. Or merging traffic to allow one car at a time onto the parkway and don't cut people off. The big one is to keep drivers to maintain their speed through the tunnel. It's almost magicial the way ther traffic disappears on the other side if the tunnel!
Zandy Dudiak November 19, 2012 at 01:25 PM
That's the truth Paul! We've yet to see if raising the Squirrel Hill Tunnel ceiling will change anything once the construction is done.
Elizabeth November 19, 2012 at 03:07 PM
My understanding is that raising the ceiling on the SH tunnel was never intended to increase tunnel speeds. Rather it is being done as a part of needed maintenance and to reduce the number of times the tunnel is closed due to over height vehicles. I am terrible concerned about these changes since we live near the intersection of Greendale and Braddock and our kid's daycare is also near that intersection. I hope Regent Square people (who paid, generally, more for their houses and taxes so they could live closer to town) don't have to pay the price for people who want cheaper housing in the exurbs AND don't want to have to commute for it. I'm sure there are reasonable traffic calming measures that can be taken without comprimising our access to the parkway. BTW, our VOLUNTEER firefighters/EMTs service when there is an accident. But, I guess if you want to close access to the parkway, you can wait for city of Pittsburgh EMTs to get to you... good luck.
Elizabeth November 19, 2012 at 03:08 PM
*/compromising. Sorry.
Scott R Priester November 19, 2012 at 03:36 PM
You said it all Paul!If PENNDOT wants to throw money at our region, invest it in driving education that drivers should have picked up in high school!
Peg Shirra November 19, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Elizabeth. Another great point about the firefighters who respond to accidents by the tunnel.
Jo Ellen Welsh November 20, 2012 at 02:02 AM
PennDot is considering this to allow faster drive times for those people who decided to move to communities such as Murrysville, Plum, etc. If those folks want a faster drive time move into the first ring communities of Swissvale, Rankin,Forest Hills, Edgewood, Braddock, etc. we have great housing stock and good communities. I chose to live in Swissvale for its community, easy access to town and a host of other reasons. We TAX PAYERS in these communities DO NOT deserve to be penalized (and treated like we are not tax paying citizens) for the benefit of those who chose to move farther away. The Regent Square Civic Association and a number of concerned citizens are working to address our displeasure of this proposal with PennDot. If you live in the communities that willl be affected you can find information on how to get involved on RSCA's website. AND yes, what type of impact will this have on not only the fire responders to crashes on the parkway but also our EMS services in transporting any of our citizens (us) (in an emergency) to a hospital in Oakland or the North Side? God help you if it's during rush hour!
Patricia E. Boyd November 20, 2012 at 04:00 AM
I propose lining the walls of the Squirrel Hill Tunnels with mirrors. That way, tunnel-phobic drivers will be tricked into thinking there is another lane of cars, and not a wall, flanking them. Or run giant, long TV screens on the walls and continuously play videos of cars whizzing by at 55 mph. Another suggestion: a valet service through the tunnels, as this would be faster than the speeds that some people drive through those tunnels. (Thanks to some talk radio show for that silly suggestion!)
Sue T November 20, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Jo Ellen is correct. Look at the PennDot presentation information on the RSCA website. This is being done to save four and a half minutes on the trip from Monroeville to downtown. Yet they didn't bother to study the impacts on Braddock, Forbes, Penn Ave, etc. So, by my estimates we are expected to incease our travel time by 20 or 39 minutes, so the people in the far eastern suburbs will save less than 5 minutes?

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