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More relief for Route 28 drivers

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

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Here’s some possibly great news for Route 28 commuters: the contractor on the construction project, Trumbull Corp., must open two lanes to outbound traffic by Sept. 16 or face daily penalties. We’re told that crews are scrambling to make the deadline. PennDOT hasn’t yet released a timetable for reopening the second outbound lane. Outbound traffic has been restricted to one lane for the last three years.

Inbound traffic is much improved since the lane split was removed Aug. 10, flowing smoothly every day except for when there's a crash. Another outbound lane should induce euphoria.

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Pittsburgh police will crack down on school zone speeding and illegal passing of stopped school buses for two weeks to mark the start of the school year. Drivers who violate the laws face a possible 60-day driver’s license suspension, 5 points on their driving record and a $250 fine.

“In addition to the increased officer presence, members of the Pittsburgh police will also cite violators based on information received from school crossing guards, bus drivers, and other school officials,” Cmdr. Scott Schubert said.

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During the debate over transportation funding this year, one lawmaker called urban mass transit “welfare.” Such is the state of our General Assembly’s intellectual acumen.

At a hearing on Wednesday, state Sen. Jim Brewster of McKeesport reacted to that comment, saying “I can accept insensitivity. What I don’t accept is their ignorance.” He went on to say that he would like to bring lawmakers who think public transit is an unjustified handout to his city and to other disadvantaged and economically depressed communities in the Mon Valley to see the people who depend on public transit.

“I want to see if there’s blood flowing through their veins,” he said of his colleagues.

At the same hearing, Dewitt Peart, the new president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, addressed the shortsighted notion that rural residents shouldn’t have to subsidize big-city transit.

“The five counties with the lowest population in the state have nearly 30 times more miles of state roads per person than the five counties with the highest population. Gas tax revenue moves from urban to rural areas in the same way that some tax revenue moves from rural to urban areas to fund mass transit systems. Public transit is a necessary part of the urban economies that provide most of the economic production in the state.”

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Over the past 10 years, Port Authority has trimmed its workforce from 3,118 to 2,472, or 20 percent.

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Since 1997, the last time the state’s gasoline tax was raised, the cost of paving a mile of road has risen from $56,000 to $104,000, according to Cranberry Township officials. Bear in mind that the gasoline tax is not adjusted for inflation -- it’s 32.3 cents per gallon whether a gallon costs $2 or $4. So the tax is paying for about half the paving that it financed in 1997. This shouldn’t be a concern to anyone who thinks our roads are in good shape.

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About 25 percent of our local road miles are rated in “poor” condition, according to Matt Pavlosky, transportation planner for the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission. For the coming four years, estimated spending on transportation in the 10-county region will be 32 percent less than what was spent from 2009-12.

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If the Legislature does nothing about transportation this fall, PennDOT will spend about 25 percent less per year on construction, causing an estimated job loss of 9,600 over the coming five years, said Rich Barcaskey, executive director of the Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania. If the Legislature passes Senate Bill 1, providing up to $2.5 billion in additional transportation revenue, an estimated 50,000 new jobs will be created, said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Rafferty of Montgomery County.

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Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler, on some of his fellow Republicans in the House: “I do not think they get the big picture of how important mass transit is. This is coming from someone who was extremely critical (in the past) of the Port Authority.” On the prospects for passage of a transportation funding bill this fall: “I am optimistic because I’m an optimistic person. But I also get livid. I was livid when we left Harrisburg (in June) and didn’t pass a transportation bill … it’s not an easy vote to put up but it’s a vote that has to be made.”

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menatworkThe Squirrel Hill Tunnels will be open this weekend. You’ll have the typical overnight single-lane closures that end by 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Bridge inspection may cause lane closures on Interstate 79 at the Parkway North split from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and Friday.

Washing of bridges will cause lane restrictions after 10 p.m. on the Parkway West in Findlay and the Beaver Valley Expressway in Hopewell and Vanport (both highways part of I-376) on weeknights through Sept. 12. Restrictions lifted by 6 a.m. daily.

Mossfield Street will be closed from North Mathilda Street to Schenley Avenue in Garfield from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday for maintenance work.

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The Roundabout will be on vacation for a while. Happy motoring. We’ll see you again real soon.

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