If only I had taken pictures of my detoured drive

When I moved to the Burgh just over 14 years ago, I had a lot of anxiety about getting from "here" to "there." I found the city, which is triangular, and even some of the suburbs quite confusing. On top of that, a lot of the signs were of little help. Clearly they were put up by either natives who had no need for directions or people with a sick sense of humor who thought it would be funny to put signs in random places, leaving off important roads.

At some point, I got over that fear of driving to a new building downtown. I don't recall when it happened, but eventually I just figured most of the city out; and when I had to head to a new place, I just drove around, no longer with a feeling of dread, knowing I would eventually get there.

But on Sunday morning, that awful, long-ago feeling returned, thanks to the closure of the outbound Fort Pitt Tunnels. I had to pick my mother up from the airport, so there was no avoiding it. (For some reason, my family thinks because I live close to the city, that it is not the least bit inconvenient for me to drive 30 miles and through two tunnels to get there. But I digress.)

Having heard horror stories about the traffic backups Saturday, I dutifully followed WTAE's suggestion of going through the Liberty Tubes, rather than take the alternate route. As I got on the Liberty Bridge, I looked for a sign that would tell me which lane I should be in. Considering Penn Dot had signs up on the Parkway East instructing airport goers to take this route, one would think there would be a sign on the bridge. How quickly I forget how Penn Dot works (or how little Penn Dot works, but, again, I digress).

Although I had not been on this bridge for years, I did recall once getting in the right lane and pretty much being forced to go up to Mt. Washington. I did not want to make that same mistake, so I stayed in the left lane. Not surprisingly, as soon as I got through the tunnels, I saw a sign indicating the airport was right. As in I needed to go right, right that very minute. Fortunately, no cars crushed me as I quickly made a right turn from the left lane to head in the right direction.

I next saw a sign for 376, which immediately sent me into a panic. I wanted 279S; that was how I would get to the airport. What the H is up with 376?! After a moment, I remembered that someone decided to change 279 to 376, so relief, if not minor irritation, set in. Eventually, the signs kind of alternated between those two routes; one sign even had both names, which would have been helpful from the get-go, but this is Penn Dot. The same Penn Dot that for some odd reason had placed orange cones between the two lanes. Cones that several cars ran over when they realized they then needed to get in the left lane to head towards the airport. Fortunately, I threaded the needle on that one as I made my way into the left lane.

After a few minutes, the road (no idea which road I was on; who could keep track while trying to play guess which lane you need to be in) came to right of the Fort Pitt Tunnel, so I figured I was home free. A detour sign indicated the airport was left. The road I was on was curving left, but there was also a left exit. I took the left arrow on the sign to mean go left. You can probably guess where this is going.

Or rather where I was going, which was on the wrong road. I was not the only car who did this, although a smarter driver stopped between that left exit and the road curving left and eventually guessed correctly. And that is what it is about when it comes to Penn Dot.

Anyway, after feeling both pissed off and slightly stressed out while driving on some other unknown road for a few minutes, I came up to Crane Avenue. I was certain I had heard of this street before, so I took it, hoping I was not mistaking the familiarity for Frasier Crane or something. I had to guess at a couple of turns along the way, but...

Eventually I found an exit onto 279. And by 279, I of course mean 376. But I did not care. I got back on the road I recognized and made it to the airport in about 45 minutes total. I call that a success.

I would like to call Penn Dot and PA construction in general something else, however.


Anonymous said…
This narrative was hilarious! Good for you for finding the humor. There is nothing like PA construction.
chris h. said…
Facie, I had a similar problem after picking my sister up at the airport last month -- which I have done many times, but not since last Christmas. Between then and now, "they" changed all the signs -- instead of saying Business Rt. 60, which I take to get to my mom's from the airport, they were all renamed something about the "376 Corridor" or some such nonsense. 376? The Parkway? Nothing about Rt. 60 (near Robert Morris) has anything to do with the Parkway! So I ended up missing the exit and getting totally turned around on a trip I've made dozens of times, with my sister and nephew in the car. Boy did I feel like an idiot. It's maddening.
Sherri said…
Yeah - I, too, have found Pittsburgh VERY hard to figure out / navigate since moving here a number of years ago. In fact, I still get confused when people start talking "north hills", "south hills", etc. - have just begun to figure out where certain 'burbs are thanks to my daughter's basketball and lacrosse games.
Facie said…
Glad I am not alone. It is maddening, isn't it?!

And I am glad I wrote this. I was pretty mad when it happened, but it IS kind of funny to actually tell the story. If someone who lived in place with "normal" signs and road construction read this, they would probably think I was joking.

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