First, some good news.
Drivers will soon be getting a break from lane closures and traffic stoppages related to PennDOT's multi-year North Atherton Street project between Aaron Drive and Park Avenue. Marc Maney, PennDOT's chief inspector in charge of the project, said on Monday that contractors will shut down for the winter, likely in the next two weeks, though some sidewalk and retaining wall work may take place in early January, weather-permitting.
During the winter shutdown, all lanes in both directions and the center lane will be open.
With a targeted completion of Oct. 18, 2019, for this phase of the project, things are in good shape for when work resumes in March.
"At this point we’re happy to say we’re actually ahead of schedule," Maney said. "The work zone we’re working in right now… going up past where the Rodeway Inn hotel is, that work was actually scheduled to begin next year. We were able to get a jumpstart on it this year."
When work wraps up next fall, however, that's not the end of Atherton Street improvements. More on that in a bit.
To date, most of the principal work at the east end of the project has been completed, with new sewer and waterlines, drainage and sidewalks installed between Aaron Drive and Big Hollow Run, which runs under the road in the area of Discovery Space and TGI Friday's and serves as a dividing line for the project. Columbia Gas has completed its line replacements through the length of the project. Most other utility relocations have been completed as well, with Verizon and West Penn Power expected to be finished in March
Water line replacement through the length of the project may be completed before the winter shutdown, with a major tie-in still to be done at the Park Avenue intersection.
"That’s going to take some time," Maney said. "It’s going to be night work. If we do do that this year, it will be within two weeks."
Now, for what's ahead in 2019 (and beyond).
Early March 2019
A portion of a sewer line needs to be installed before the next major part of the project begins in late March. Verizon and West Penn Power also will be completing utility relocation during this time.
March 27-April 5
Over this 10-day period, contractor Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. will be installing a new box culvert at the Big Hollow Run crossing. According to PennDOT, the existing box culvert is undersized and has deteriorated pipes.
During that time, crews will be working around-the-clock and traffic will be reduced to a single lane in both directions.
"Due to the depths of the excavation, we have to take quite a bit of the roadway so they can put the left side and the right side in in steps," Maney said. "It’s going to take some time to do that. It’s going to take patience on the motorists’ part. But we’ve planned that the 10 days is more than sufficient to get that box culvert in."
April to June
Crews will be working from Big Hollow Run to Hillcrest Avenue, focused on new drainage, curbs and sidewalks. PennDOT also expects paving will take place in April or May from Aaron Drive past Blue Course Drive to near Big Hollow Run. Paving from Big Hollow Run to Park Avenue will take place once all other principal work has finished in the area.
"As of right now we’re not planning on waiting until the end and doing everything all at once," Maney said. "We know we have a rough roadway out there because of all the excavations we’ve done and filling back in."
This will be the next major step as the entire width of the roadway between Mitchell Avenue and Hillcrest Avenue undergoes a full-depth reconstruction. Again, work will take place around-the-clock and traffic will be restricted to one lane in both directions. Maney said the reconstruction is being done to meet current design standards.
"That work is scheduled around local events that are going to be taking place so they want to make sure it’s done between the May 3 and May 26 timeframe," he said.
June through August
Work between Hillcrest Avenue and Park Avenue will be completed.
September through mid-October
Maney said the final month of the project will most likely involve signal upgrades, line painting, installing signage and other miscellaneous work.
Though work for this phase is scheduled to conclude on Oct. 18, work could extend by a few weeks to get a head start on the next phase of the project.
After the Aaron Drive to Park Avenue phase is complete, PennDOT will next work on Atherton Street from Park Avenue to Westerly Parkway.
Maney said that phase was initially planned to take another two years but now PennDOT hopes to be able to complete it in one year.
He added that the end of the 2019 construction season could see work on the beginning of that phase near the Park Avenue intersection.
"We’re currently planning on possibly doing some more work past the Park Avenue intersection next year, so when we do start that work in 2020 we won’t have to put a temporary signal up there for a second time to impede traffic coming down Park Avenue," he said. "It would be better for pedestrian access crossing there and also for traffic in general."
Marla Fannin, press officer for PennDOT District 2, said the department will continue extensive communication about the project with the public through local partners, news media and the project page on the PennDOT website.
"It is our goal to make sure people have information in as timely a manner as possible, in as much detail as possible," she said.