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Penn Township turnpike ramp not top priority

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The installation of a Pennsylvania Turnpike slip-ramp exit in Penn Township remains a “priority project” for Westmoreland County officials, but ranks behind a possible ramp for Route 981 in Mt. Pleasant Township as an economic-development goal, Westmoreland County Commissioner Tyler Courtney said.

Courtney, an executive committee member for the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, told Penn Township commissioners last week that he discussed a potential ramp near the intersection of Route 130 and Pleasant Valley and Sandy Hill roads during a recent meeting with PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch.

The commission, which includes local-government and PennDOT officials, is the planning body for prioritizing projects funded by the state and federal governments in 10 counties.

Slip ramps are smaller exits that don't accept cash payments.

Township officials have lobbied for a slip ramp near the intersection for years and recently approved a tax-incentive program for development on some nearby properties.

Residents' opinions have been mixed, said Lois Picking, who reminded commissioners of a petition against a ramp a few years ago.

A slip ramp there could help to alleviate traffic congestion on Route 130, but PennDOT officials are worried roads heading toward Irwin would not be able to handle the increased traffic from vehicles exiting the turnpike, Courtney said.

Courtney described a similar proposal to install a slip ramp at Route 981 as a “better project” but said both potential projects in Mt. Pleasant and Penn Township are important.

“I think that there's more opportunity for industrial development on that road (Route 981) because it's not as developed,” Courtney said.

A new, widened bridge on Route 130 over the turnpike in Penn Township has been open for almost two years.

Another project, to improve the turning lanes at the highway's intersection with Pleasant Valley and Sandy Hill roads, might be put out for bids next year, township manager Alex Graziani said.

Penn Township Commissioner Paul Wersing reiterated that township officials think a slip ramp at Route 130 would help with development of the business corridor.

“We'd really like to see that move forward,” he said.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2363 or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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