How's traffic? See for yourself

Written by Jon Schmitz on .



PennDOT has upgraded its 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.


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.


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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Ultimate cure for winter sickness at Pittsburgh Yoga Expo 2014

Written by Mila Sanina on .

Sunday, a dreary February day. Cold. Bad roads. It's been snowing in Pittsburgh all day… a perfect day to spend at home, isn't it?


Not for Pittsburgh yoga fans. In the heart of Pittsburgh, inside the Pittsburgh Opera building, positive energy was flowing all day.


Stretch. Take a breathe. Relax. Do a camel pose…


Welcome to the Pittsburgh Yoga Expo 2014, a place where people you meet will defy  real-time all your preconceptions about what a human body can do.


20140209jrYogaLocal8-7                                                               Photo: Julia Rendleman/Post-Gazette


Pittsburgh Yoga Expo is an annual event, this year marked its third-year anniversary. It was founded here by Rebecca Rankin, a certified Bikram Yoga teacher and co-owner of Bikram Yoga Squirrel Hill. Rebecca came to Pittsburgh four years ago, before that she lived in San Francisco and travelled throughout Europe sharing her passion for yoga. 


She says that interest in yoga in Pittsburgh is definitely growing, this year there have been more than 300 people pre-registered to be part of Yoga Expo. Tickets cost you $15 in advance or you could pay $25 at the door and get in. 


It does not matter whether you are a pro or just a beginner. Everyone was welcome. There were instructors willing to answer questions and sign you up for yoga classes in Pittsburgh and Dormont, healing specialists ready to give advice and nine consecutive workshops, where yoga enthusiasts could practice Chakra Yoga, Forrest Yoga, and Bikram Yoga, learn arm balancing and a grasshopper pose.


20140209jrYogaLocal6-5Julia Rendleman/Post-Gazette


If you were sick of Pittsburgh's long winter and wanted to warm up your body and challenge it with complicated stretching exercises along with dozens of Pittsburgh yogis, it would be a place for you. For an event where physical challenge matches the promise for spiritual growth, Pittsburgh Yoga Expo was a success, just take a look at the stream of tweets from the participants. And be on the lookout for an article in the Post-Gazette by Lauren Lindstrom.


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Save me, save my dog

Written by Peter Smith on .

Saint Bernard dogbreedsinfo-8x6Do pets go to heaven?

It's a question that's drawn an increasing amount of speculation in recent years -- and that's a window on the social and religious changes in America, as I write in today's article about the growing recognition of pet bereavement.

Speculation about pet paradise coincides with the shrinking of household size, the growing importance of pets to many Americans in an era when dogs have moved from the "doghouse to our house*," and the fact that people are freely mixing and matching traditional religion with non-traditional spirituality.


"It sounds deceptively simple and maybe a little bit cute in some ways, but it's an important topic," said John Ferre, a University of Louisville communications professor who has surveyed more than two dozen books on pet heaven, with poignant titles such as "Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates."

"It gets at the idea of: Is death permanent? And if that's the case, what does life mean?" Mr. Ferre said. For many children, their first experience with death is with a pet, and one man told Mr. Ferre he abandoned his faith after his pastor refused to assure him his pet was in heaven.

It just so happens that Lifetree Cafe, a Colorado-based Christian organization that sponsors coffeehouse discussions of current topics, is hosting forums on pet heaven in Southwestern Pennsylvania.


"Do Good Dogs Go To Heaven" will be held Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 6:30 p.m. in McKees Rocks and Thursday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m. in Lower Burrell. Look here for the details.

The discussions are based on a formal curriculum that can include video and printed material.

"We wanted to create a safe place where everybody’s questions and doubts are welcomed," said Craig Cable of Lifetree Cafe. "There’s going to be a lot of people with very heart-felt experiences with their pets."

Many people can't imagine heaven without their beloved pets. Which puts a new twist on the expression, "Love me, love my dog." Apparently that's not just an expression, it's a prayer. And the phrase, as it turns out, has quite a pedigree: It was popularized centuries ago by -- how appropriate -- St. Bernard.


* h/t to the fascinating book "One Nation Under Dog" for that phrase.


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Pitt axing grad religious studies

Written by Peter Smith on .

pitt logoMany people remember a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case as one that banned school-sponsored devotional Bible readings. What's often forgotten is that same case, Abington v. Schempp, actually opened the door to religious studies in the public schools. For those fearful of transgressing the First Amendment by even mentioning the topic, the court actually said such study was not only constitutional but that "education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion."

That led to a steady growth of religious studies at public universities since the 1960s. The last time this was measured by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in 2007, the nation's universities produced more than 5,000 graduates with religious-studies bachelor's degrees and nearly 5,000 more with minors in the field. They taught more than 5,000 graduate-level students, some in degree programs, some not. Everything from the 1960s fascination with Eastern religions to the post-Sept. 11 interest in Islam fueled interest in the field. A more recent trend has been to study not just comparative religion but to launch specific degree programs in Judaism, Islam, Catholicism and other faiths.

So it's significant that the University of Pittsburgh is cutting its graduate-level religious-studies program. Two other humanities programs, classics and German, are still walking the plank but have a chance of being preserved. My colleague Bill Schackner has the story here.

"These are very difficult times for universities and the real budgetary concerns that prompted these proposals are not likely to go away any time soon," wrote Patricia E. Beeson, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor at Pitt.

While the announced cut of the grad program doesn't say anything about the fate of undergraduate religious studies, those universities with graduate programs in the field have significantly larger faculties than those without, according to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences study.

 John Fitzmier, executive director of the American Academy of Religion, a professional association of scholars in the field, said religious-studies programs have faced cutbacks in public universities in other states.

"In some cases we’ve had modest success with letters saying, 'Please, try something else,'" he said.

Advocates for retaining religious studies positions, he said, have stressed the importance of understanding today's diverse religious world in fields as diverse as medicine and diplomacy. (As far as the latter is concerned, I've often heard it said that the 1979 Iranian revolution and subsequent hostage crisis involved a failure by U.S. diplomats to grasp the religious drama unfolding in Iran.)

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Girl Scout Cookies: Which is best?

Written by Kim Lyons on .

When they kick off Girl Scout Cookie Weekend tomorrow in Market Square, Pittsburgh-area Girl Scouts will not only be sating the annual cravings of Pittsburgh cookie lovers, they will also be reigniting a debate as old as the cookies themselves: Which is the ultimate Girl Scout Cookie?

I admit to a strong Thin Mints bias. Others in my household are partial to Tagalongs and Trefoils. I hear many people are fans of Samoas, but those don't typically make our order form.

So we need your vote: Which Girl Scout cookie is your favorite, and why?


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