Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

May 30, 2002

Good news, bad news for 5th Avenue travelers

There's good news and bad news for Oakland commuters. The contra-traffic-flow bus lane on Fifth Avenue outbound from Downtown will be closed only for six-eight weeks this summer, instead of up to three years as was previously proposed.

But all other traffic will be restricted to two lanes on a section of Fifth for the next two-three years during the first phase of UPMC Health System's $600 million expansion and renovation project.

The affected area is from Darragh Street to Chesterfield Road in Oakland.

During the first two-plus years of construction of UPMC's multi-facility project, the far right inbound lane of Fifth Avenue will be closed between Darragh and Chesterfield. Oxford Development Co., UPMC's project contractor, plans to use that lane as a staging area, according to Jane Duffield, director of the Health Sciences news bureau. Inbound vehicles, including buses, will be restricted to two lanes in those blocks.

"That is the tentative situation right now," Duffield said. "The construction management area may extend past the Darragh to Chesterfield stretch as we go further into the project. We expect the lane closing to last two years or so, while the whole project we are estimating will take four-and-a-half to five years."

Under an agreement reached May 16, part of the outbound bus-only lane on Fifth Avenue will be closed so UPMC Health System can build an underground pedestrian tunnel under Fifth Avenue. The bus lane closure will last six-eight weeks from the start of tunnel construction, Duffield said, which is expected to begin in July.

Officials from UPMC Health System, Oxford Development, the Port Authority of Allegheny County and the city met to hash out the agreement in a closed-door meeting.

Prior to the meeting, Oxford Development had proposed shifting inbound vehicular traffic over to include the bus lane, thereby maintaining three lanes during the course of construction. That proposal got tentative city approval.

But the Port Authority balked at closing the bus lane for that long because of delays and increased congestion on Forbes Avenue, where the outbound Fifth Avenue bus routes would have been detoured.

An extended closing also would cost the transit company up to $500,000 a year in lost state reimbursements, according to Bob Grove of the Port Authority.

"There's no question that this is a good compromise for us," Grove said. "The state reimburses us on a formula based on the number of passengers and miles we have in use as 'fixed guideways,' which are lanes or routes used for transit only, like the bus lane. Putting up with six or eight weeks is inconvenient and will cost us some, but it's a lot better than three years."

On an average weekday, the contra-flow bus lane is used by 37,000 riders on seven bus routes comprising 412 individual trips, Grove said. During the tunnel construction there will be heavy bus congestion on Forbes Avenue, as the city detours bus routes there. The configuration of altered bus routes has not been determined yet, he said. Routes and stops for inbound buses on Fifth Avenue are likely to remain unchanged except for adjustments in the Darragh to Chesterfield staging area.

The new pedestrian tunnel will link UPMC Montefiore with a proposed underground parking garage in the 3400 block of Fifth.

UPMC Health System is building three new facilities north of Fifth Avenue: a Children's Hospital inpatient facility on the Terrace Street side of Montefiore, a child and adult ambulatory care center on the Fifth Avenue side of Montefiore and a biotechnology center on the site of the Lhormer Building between Lothrop and Darragh streets. Also planned are renovations to UPMC Montefiore and the Kaufmann Medical Building and a parklet at Fifth and DeSoto.

–Peter Hart

Leave a Reply