Pennsylvania Turnpike Southern Beltway extension gets funding
After years of hold-ups and debate, a $666 million project to extend the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Southern Beltway between Interstate 79 and Route 22 in Washington County received unanimous support on Monday from Western Pennsylvania's regional planning commission.
“We need to think bigger as a region. We need to be aspirational, or we'll get what we've always gotten,” said Steve Craig, chairman of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission and a Lawrence County commissioner.
The turnpike project is part of a larger, $4.7 billion proposal to address Western Pennsylvania's transportation needs during the next four years, starting on Oct. 1. The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, a 10-county planning agency, unanimously approved it.
Increased state funding from Pennsylvania's new transportation law beefed up the SPC's four-year plan. Approved every two years, the plan adopted in 2012 was $3.1 billion, down from $3.6 billion in 2010 and $4.2 billion in 2012.
Building the Southern Beltway will become the turnpike's biggest single project, said Brad Heigel, the agency's chief engineer. Construction of the 19-mile section of highway is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2016 and end in 2019.
Heigel said it will “open up the Marcellus shale region,” providing a better link between the industry's drilling and corporate hotbed in Western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh International Airport. Royal Dutch Shell is considering building a multibillion-dollar petrochemical plant north of the airport in Beaver County — a project that received another encouraging sign on Monday when the SPC approved adding a proposed Shell-funded road project to the four-year transportation plan in effect through Sept. 30.
The oil and gas giant is considering spending up to $90 million to relocate a portion of Route 18 and widen the highway near the would-be plant site in Center and Potter. Adding the project to the SPC's current transportation plan doesn't guarantee work will begin before Oct. 1, but work can't begin unless the project is included in the plan, officials said. Heigel said the Southern Beltway could open thousands of acres along the corridor for development.
“It will have a huge, positive impact on the Parkway West,” reducing congestion along the notoriously jammed-up highway, said PennDOT District 11 Executive Dan Cessna, whose district includes Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties.
About 20,000 motorists a day are expected to use the new stretch of highway, Heigel said. The turnpike will decide by mid-2015 how it wants to proceed with the rest of the proposed Southern Beltway project, which originally called for extensions east of I-79 to the Mon-Fayette Expressway and the Parkway East.
The four-year plan adopted by the SPC sets aside about $2 billion for highway projects, $1.8 billion for transit, $586.7 million for interstate work and $359.3 million for the beltway.
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Tomlin: Taylor back, Polamalu probable for return vs. Saints
- IUP student dies from injuries after he was pinned beneath car
- Brentwood police chief to get nearly $200,000 as part of settlement agreement with borough
- Fire destroys Armstrong County tavern
- Car crashes into Cranberry store, no one injured
- Fire at a Robert Morris University dormitory hall will displace 10 students
- Pirates star McCutchen marries in private ceremony
- Attorneys say Leon Ford putting off needed surgery because of prospect of second trial
- Brown family blasts prosecutor’s handling of case
- Monongahela paramedic dies in the line of duty
- Fayette County man accused of extorting $13,000 over alleged affair