Locals report traffic logjam in Carnegie
Despite an influx of traffic since the Parkway West ramps in and out of Carnegie closed, shop and restaurant owners on Main Street remain optimistic about their businesses.
“So far, it’s been not as bad as I think everyone originally thought,” said Larry Scott, co-owner of Modern Mercantile PGH, a houseware and home décor store on Main Street.
Following weeks of overnight closures on the Parkway West, PennDOT closed both off-ramps to Carnegie the weekend of Oct. 24 as part of a $72.8 million project. The Carnegie eastbound and westbound on-ramps to the highway closed in September.
Outbound lanes on the parkway close from Parkway Center Drive to the Interstate 79 interchange Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and Fridays from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. Inbound lanes close from I-79 to Parkway Center Drive Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m.
“I wouldn’t say it’s smooth sailing, because it’s been difficult controlling the flow of traffic for businesses,” Carnegie Mayor Jack Kobistek said, adding the only official complaint he’s heard is the location of traffic officers.
“We have been in a reactive mode since learning of the closures (in August). The plan is to be in an active mode next year, and address any current problems.”
The ramps are to reopen the second week of December for a winter hiatus, before closing again in March 2015 for the reminder of the year.
Representatives of several businesses on Main Street, in the borough’s business district, agree the biggest nuisance is traffic, particularly during rush hours.
“People are having trouble circling the blocks, and coming in mad. We have people calling constantly pushing back reservations,” said Rich Richter, manager at Papa J’s Ristorante, an Italian restaurant on Main Street.
Richter said business hasn’t struggled, but he remains concerned about road rage, semi-trucks using side streets and an overall lack of direction for drivers.
“I think there needs to be more signage and police direction,” he said.
PennDOT is covering the cost of patrol officers as part of the project’s contract. PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said his office has not received any commuter complaints about the area as of last week.
As for the closure, “Everything has happened the way we expected it would,” he said.
Kobistek’s new concern is the upcoming weekend closures of the Fort Pitt Tunnel that will coincide with the ramps’ winter reopening.
“When they close the whole tunnel, I’m afraid people will just avoid the parkway in general and really not travel out this way,” Kobistek said.
Fort Pitt Tunnel work will begin in November, but no official schedule has been released, Cowan said.
Other shops on Main Street such as Carnegie Coffee Company and The Medicine Shoppe have yet to see a change in business, but street traffic has increased, according to coffee shop owner Greg Romeo.
Despite the longer commutes, Romeo said he is focusing on the future.
“In the long run it’s going to be great for the town but in the short term, just a pain we will have to deal with,” he said.
Alex Felser is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5810 or [email protected].