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How's traffic? See for yourself

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

 

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PennDOT has upgraded its 511pa.com website, which provides up-to-the-minute information about traffic. The redesigned website debuted last week.

From the PennDOT news release announcing the upgrade:

Incident and construction information is available for 40,000 miles of state roads, essentially the entire PennDOT-maintained system, plus the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The original 511PA system offered information for the 2,900 miles that make up the “core system” of interstates and select U.S. routes.

Information on current traffic conditions has improved with real-time traffic-speed data now available for 15,000 roadway miles, expanded from 659.

The site also now offers access to 30 additional traffic cameras from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, in addition to the 650 already available across the state.

Users who opt to get their traveler information on the phone will find an easier-to-use system that provides information more quickly and includes better voice recognition technology. The phone system is accessible by dialing 511 from within Pennsylvania. Users who call 511PA from outside the state should call 1-877-511-PENN (7366).

In addition to the website and phone options, motorists can sign up to receive personal travel alerts through email and text messages. The alerts can be customized by roadway, time of day and days of the week. Alerts are also available through Twitter feeds assigned to each 511PA region, as well as a statewide feed.

Since 511PA launched in September 2009, the service has had more than 3.1 million website visits, nearly 20,000 alert subscribers and 1.9 million phone calls.

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ICYMI: From Sunday print, 1 in 5 Port Authority buses runs late; you can view a complete list of on-time data for nearly every route here.

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Outbound Parkway East traffic will be restricted to one lane in the area of the 10th Street Bridge starting at 10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. The restriction, which will be lifted by 6 a.m. each day, is to accommodate Allegheny County’s rehabilitation project on the bridge, which crosses the parkway between mile 70 and 71.

Single-lane closures are possible during overhead sign inspections from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today on the Parkway West between Pittsburgh International Airport and Hopewell; and during the same hours Tuesday at these sites: Route 60 at the Interstate 79 interchange; southbound Route 65 at the I-79 interchange; and northbound I-79 between Warrendale (Exit 75) and Cranberry (Exit 76).

Babcock Boulevard will be restricted to alternating one-way traffic between Greenhill and Schaefer roads in Shaler from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday while crews work on fiber optic cables. Flaggers will direct traffic.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike will slow westbound traffic between Butler Valley (Exit 39) and Allegheny Valley (Exit 48) interchanges at around 3 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday to accommodate an ongoing bridge reconstruction project. Police will pace traffic at 20 to 25 mph. The same thing will happen eastbound at 3 a.m. Feb. 19 and 20.

Restrictions are possible on Walton Road in Jefferson Hills, between old Route 837 and Scheinbach Road, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Friday, as crews drill and conduct research for a future project. Elsewhere on Walton Road, shoring a hillside and shoulder will shrink traffic to an alternating one-way pattern between Dale Road and Riverview Drive from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Feb. 28.

Also in Jefferson Hills, drilling and research will restrict traffic on Scheinbach Road from Walton to Lobbs Run roads from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily through Thursday.

Monongahela Road at Pangburn Hollow Road in Forward will have lane closures from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Thursday. More research and drilling.

Port Authority’s Wabash Tunnel will be closed from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily through Friday during work on the ventilation system.

Relocation of a water line will restrict Lincoln Way traffic in White Oak to one narrow lane in both directions between Route 48 and Guice Street from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through March 6.

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Another big whiff by TV weather forecasters

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

 

snowTime for another check of how well those long-range winter weather forecasts issued in the fall by Pittsburgh TV meteorologists are holding up.

KDKA’s Jeff Verszyla might want to crawl into the hole with Punxsutawney Phil, having predicted 7.9 inches of snow for January and “slightly above normal” temperatures. The actual total was 17.9 inches, ninth-snowiest January in recorded history per the National Weather Service, and the monthly average temperature was 6.2 degrees below normal, making it the 16th-coldest January on record.

Mr. Verszyla said we’d get 32 inches of snow during the entire season. With February and March still to go, we’ve had 42.3 inches.

WPXI’s Stephen Cropper said we’d get 12 inches of snow for the month with “mild spells” before mid-month when Arctic temps would lock in. Not bad on the temperature forecast. Bad on the snow forecast, nearly 50 percent off the mark. Mike Harvey of WTAE came closest on the snow forecast, predicting 15 inches, but said temperatures would average 0.5 degrees below normal. Swing and a miss.

Our forecast: These guys will continue to shamelessly offer long-range forecasts in an effort to hype their ratings. We should assign those forecasts a zero percent chance of credibility. (Photo by Larry Roberts of the Post-Gazette)

Our review of the weathercasters' performance for the month of December can be found here. (Scroll down.) And our first report card, for November, is here.

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The right lane on northbound Route 51 will be closed between Stewart Avenue and Ivyglen Street in Overbrook starting tonight and continuing weeknights through Feb. 28. The closure will be in effect from 7 p.m. daily until 6 a.m. the following morning for utility work related to the Route 51-Route 88 intersection project.

Inspection of overhead signs could cause lane closures on the Parkway West/Interstate 376 between Pittsburgh International Airport and Hopewell from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. between Exits 13 and 15 in Butler and Lawrence counties.

Rodi Road in Wilkins will have alternating one-way traffic on the ramp over Chalfant Run south of William Penn Highway from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays through Feb. 10. Crews are doing research for a future project.

Banksville Avenue has reopened from McMonagle Avenue to Potomac Avenue. The road was closed Oct. 17 for landslide removal and construction of a wall. More work is planned in the spring.

Work to convert the intersection of Streets Run and Prospect roads in Baldwin Borough to an all-way stop requirement is scheduled Tuesday starting at 10 a.m. An engineering and safety study concluded that traffic from all directions should have to stop.

The Wabash Tunnel will be closed from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today through Friday for replacement of a ventilation fan.

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Doozy of a detour coming to Route 910 in Indiana Twp.

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

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The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will close one of the bridges carrying Route 910 over the pike on Monday for a 10-month replacement project.

The posted detour is about 14 miles, and follows Saxonburg Boulevard, Harts Run Road and Middle Road back to Route 910. The bridge is one of six crossing the turnpike in the area that are being replaced to prepare for widening the highway to six lanes. The bridge is at mile 42.65. Completion is scheduled for December.

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Another bridge project in the area will cause a full closure of the turnpike in both directions between Butler Valley and Allegheny Valley from 11:59 p.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Sunday. Traffic will be detoured via Route 8, Route 28, Route 910 and Freeport Road. Local traffic using Rich Hill Road in this vicinity will experience 15-minute stoppages during the five-hour period as crews erect beams for the bridge over the turnpike there.

Westbound Interstate 70 will be reduced to a single lane from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday about a half-mile east of West Alexander (Exit 1) in Washington County. Crews will replace damaged expansion dams on a bridge.

Tale from the T: Several disabled vehicles caused delays and detours on the Light Rail Transit system this morning. PG's Sean Hamill reports waiting at Allegheny Station for 30 minutes, with no announcement on the public address system about when the next vehicle would arrive. He finally gave up and walked to town.

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Potholes, we've got potholes

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

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Our Sunday report about the early onset of pothole season caused quite a stir. Other news organizations jumped on the story, and soon, the new Pittsburgh mayor, Bill Peduto, was ordering a 72-hour "blitz" by road crews to fill as many potholes as possible.

All well and good, but if the city wants to get the upper hand on potholes, it must pave more than the 40 or so miles that it typically does in a construction season. The city has about 1,000 lane-miles of streets to maintain, and good practice would be to repave them at least once every decade. That means a 100-mile paving program each year.

Public Works Director Rob Kaczorowski wants the city to build its own asphalt plant, or enter a joint venture with Allegheny County to build such a facility.

You can read our coverage of the pothole outbreak here and here, including where to call to report a pothole and get it fixed.

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An extended Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance for PennDOT, whose driver's license and photo centers will be closed Saturday and Monday.

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Gasoline price update: The average per-gallon price in Pennsylvania as of today, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, was $3.532. That is up 7.5 cents since Dec. 30. The transportation bill passed in November effectively raised the Pennsylvania gasoline tax by 9.5 cents on Jan. 1, and shifted all taxation to the wholesale level. There was some disagreement over whether the entire tax increase would be passed to consumers at the pump. At this point, the tax increase clearly has pushed up the price, but not quite as much as some had feared.

The national average price today was 3.306, or 22.6 cents lower than Pennsylvania's average.

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Higher gas tax has trickled down to the pump

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

gaspricesThe increase in the wholesale gasoline tax approved by the Legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett has trickled down to the pump.

The transportation funding bill that passed in November eliminated the 12-cent-per-gallon flat tax paid by consumers and shifted all taxation of gasoline to the wholesale level, removing an artificial cap on the wholesale tax, with the net effect of a 9.5-cent-per-gallon increase in the total tax effective Jan. 1.

According to the AAA Fuel Gauge report, the statewide average price for a gallon of unleaded rose from $3.457 on Dec. 30 to $3.554 on Sunday, an indication that distributors are passing the full burden of the higher tax to drivers. National average prices remained relatively stable during that time frame.

Here's a statement from the Sheetz convenience store chain about the transportation funding bill and tax increase:

The lack of funding available for repairs on Pennsylvania roads and bridges has taken a significant toll on Pennsylvania drivers, including our customers, our employees and the many trucks that serve our 464 stores throughout the Commonwealth and the other five states in which we operate.

Sheetz commends Governor Tom Corbett and the General Assembly for the recently enacted, bipartisan transportation funding legislation, which will provide a much needed financial source for infrastructure improvements across the Commonwealth. The legislation takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

Sheetz is committed to assuring our consumers the lowest possible price on gasoline and there are many factors that go into how those prices are set. While removal of the oil company franchise cap is one reason that retail costs could increase, there are other components of this legislation that could decrease those costs, including the elimination of the 12-cent liquid fuels tax that consumers pay at the pump.

Act 89 provides for a comprehensive investment in transportation that will make our road system safe and efficient, stimulate the state’s economy, and improve the quality of life for both our employees and customers.

Photo: The Huffington Post

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In addition to socking us with cold and snow, Old Man Winter is exposing the ridiculousness of those long-range winter forecasts that local TV meteorologists trot out every fall.

dartboardThese heavily hyped ratings gimmicks purport to tell us how much snow and cold we’ll get each month for the entire season. Our guess is that the TV execs want you to watch, then forget. We decided to keep track throughout the season.

The National Weather Service recorded 15 inches of snow in December. WPXI’s Stephen Cropper predicted 10 inches; WTAE’s Mike Harvey said 8 inches; KDKA’s Jeff Verszyla told us we’d get 4.4 inches. So the best forecast of the three was off by 50 percent.

Mr. Verszyla had us getting 6.6 inches total during November and December, while Mr. Harvey predicted 10 inches for the two-month period. The actual total was 24.3 inches, meaning your Aunt Nellie’s Ouija board probably came closer to the correct total than the experts.

Mr. Cropper didn’t hazard a guess for November, waiting till the end of the month to deliver his winter forecast.

Mr. Verszyla said December temperatures would be 5 degrees warmer than normal, while Mr. Harvey forecast an average 1 degree below normal. The actual average was 1.7 degrees warmer than normal. Mr. Cropper didn’t predict the average but said “quick shots” of cold air would move through, not exactly a daring forecast for Pittsburgh in December.

For January, Mr. Harvey says to expect 15 inches of snow; Mr. Cropper says 12 inches; Mr. Verszyla, 7.9 inches — not 8, mind you, but 7.9.

Your guess is as good as theirs.

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Just a reminder that Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls went up at midnight, 12 percent for cash payers and 2 percent for E-ZPass subscribers. For more details, see the Post-Gazette's report from last week right here.

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While The Roundabout was tending to various holiday demands, Allegheny County announced the completion of the Brownsville-Broughton-Curry Hollow intersection realignment project in early December. This gets our vote for Project of the Year, a vast improvement to one of the most congested intersections in the region.

Also completed were two other major intersection improvements in the South Hills: expansion of the Broughton-Baptist intersection in Bethel Park and a second through lane from Gilkeson Road to Connor Road in Mt. Lebanon. 2013 also brought us completion of the Route 28 interchanges at the 31st and 40th street bridges.

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Outbound traffic on Route 28 will be restricted to a single lane in the area of the 31st Street Bridge starting at 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. The restriction is in addition to the around-the-clock lane closure already in place before the bridge. It will be lifted at 5 a.m. daily, except Saturday, when it will continue until 8 a.m. Crews will install an overhead sign.

Inbound traffic on West Carson Street will be unable to turn right into the Corliss Tunnel starting Monday morning. Underground electrical work will cause the closure at 8 a.m. It will continue around the clock through Feb. 14, with traffic detoured beyond the tunnel to Steuben Street and Chartiers Avenue to reach Corliss Street. Drivers will continue to be able to turn right from the tunnel onto West Carson. Outbound West Carson Street remains closed for the $39 million reconstruction project that will stretch into 2015.

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