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June 8, 2006

Boulevard bridge demolition delayed

A delay in the start of the demolition of the Boulevard of the Allies bridge over Forbes Avenue means that summer cruising for Oakland motorists should be free of significant new lane closures or detours, and the return of students for the fall term should be unencumbered by additional traffic problems.

“Arrival Survival will not be affected,” said Community and Governmental Relations Director John M. Wilds.

But the reprieve won’t last forever. And the exact start date has yet to be set.

“We originally planned on having the construction begin in July of this year,” said PennDOT project manager William Gibson. “Right now we’re looking at more of an October beginning to construction.”

Gibson said some internal design and coordination issues delayed getting the project out to contractors, causing the start to be pushed back several months.

What motorists initially will endure near the Forbes Avenue ramp off the boulevard will include intermittent single lane closures as minor drainage work commences in October. Some of the work will piggyback on the existing lane restriction on Forbes Avenue at the Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) construction site.

Additionally, there may be some Forbes Avenue lane restrictions — but no detours — between the boulevard bridge and the Birmingham Bridge as the initial drainage work is done.

Given that the MWRI work already has closed one lane of Forbes Avenue at the western entrance to Oakland, Mavis Rainey, executive director of Oakland Transportation Management Association (OTMA) said the situation will be “nothing different than you’re going to see right now.”

The PennDOT project will replace the Boulevard of the Allies Bridge over Forbes Avenue, demolish the existing ramp bridge and construct a new exit ramp from the boulevard to Forbes Avenue. In addition a new ramp will be built from Fifth Avenue to the boulevard and the counterflow lane on Forbes Avenue will be eliminated in order to add another lane into Oakland.

For detailed project information, visit on line.

Rainey said OTMA is gearing up with information to inform drivers on the detour routes well in advance. Detour maps are posted on line at

As the project start nears, lobby displays describing the detours and maps will be provided to local hospitals and universities. Maps and directions also will be distributed to businesses and others in the area.

“We want to saturate the area with as much information about the detours as possible,” she said.

Gibson said planners anticipate detours from November until either late summer or early fall of 2007. Even after the new bridge is complete, some lingering lane restrictions could remain until the entire project is wrapped up.

“It’s going to be painful for a couple of years,” Rainey said, adding that the improvements will be worth the inconvenience.

The bridge project is only one part of a larger plan to create a new, more attractive entrance to Oakland via Forbes Avenue. The Oakland Portal project, proposed by local developer Frank Gustine Jr., is set to begin in 2008. Spanning Fifth and Forbes avenues from the area where the current Lamar Advertising building stands to the stretch along Craft Avenue near the new MWRI construction, the proposed project could bring new housing, hotel, classroom and research space.

Closer on the horizon are improvements to 11 intersections along Fifth and Forbes Avenues to increase pedestrian safety.

Plans also are in the works to improve the railing along the bus lane on Fifth Avenue from Craft Avenue to Bigelow Boulevard. Sections of the existing railing are missing or in poor repair in some spots.

In addition, Children’s Hospital officials have raised concerns about the railing in the area between Halket Street and McKee Place.

Wilds said construction mesh has been installed as a temporary means of preventing small children from slipping through the bars of the existing railing, adding that some more permanent protective feature will need to be incorporated into the design of the new railing. The final design, as well as a decision on who will pay for the new railing, remains undecided, Wilds said.

Rainey said the new railing is not expected to be in place before summer 2007 at the earliest.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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