TribLIVE

| News

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Call renewed for Pennsylvania Turnpike, Arnold Palmer airport link

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

Westmoreland County economic development officials Tuesday made yet another pitch for constructing an expressway that will connect the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport at Route 30 near Latrobe with the Pennsylvania Turnpike, via Route 981.

“It's the county's No. 1 transportation priority. We've got to keep pushing. The economic benefits that project will create can't be predicted. It will be tremendous,” John Skiavo, president of the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland, told more than 400 community and business leaders at the organization's annual dinner at the Ramada Inn in Hempfield.

The proposed expressway — dubbed the Laurel Valley Connector — would follow Route 981 from its intersection with the turnpike in Mt. Pleasant Township to Route 30, and would cost an estimated $80 million, Skiavo said.

A Laurel Valley Connector, which has been promoted for several decades, would improve transportation in an area — eastern Westmoreland County — where much of the county's economic development is occurring, Skiavo said. Instead of taking a truck 41 minutes to travel from New Stanton to the airport in Unity, the direct connection to the turnpike would cut that travel time to 18 minutes, Skiavo said.

Golfing legend Arnold Palmer, the keynote speaker in an event honoring the airport and the Westmoreland County Airport Authority, urged the audience to get behind the project.

A direct connection from the turnpike to the airport would spur economic development in the area, particularly at the Westmoreland Airpark, a county-owned business and industrial park near the airport.

“We need to make that happen. It will have such an effect on your business and our business,” said Palmer, referring to the airport that bears his name.

“The airport is just destined to grow,” said Palmer, who has been an airport authority board member for 37 years.

While the turnpike extension project has been discussed for decades — at one time it was proposed to connect New Stanton directly with the airport and Route 30 — the Turnpike Commission has not committed resources to it.

After the event, Skiavo said it is difficult to get the Turnpike Commission to commit to building a new highway, even one that costs just $80 million, because a 2007 law requires the commission to divert $450 million annually to the state. That arrangement, which allowed the commission to borrow more money, has burdened the turnpike with debt.

Economic Growth Connection recognized the airport and airport authority for the growth it has experienced and its contribution to economic development.

Donald Rossi, airport authority chairman, reiterated the agency's plans to build a new terminal and a parallel runway as part of an airport expansion. Rossi did not offer a timetable for the project, but the authority board this summer discussed borrowing as much as $20 million for the project.

Palmer said the proximity of the airport enabled him to play in golf tournaments in the morning and return home to be with his family in the evening.

“I could never have done the things I did in the world of golf and the world of business, without that airport,” said Palmer, who grew up about a mile from the facility.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Westmoreland

  1. Motorcyclist injured in Sewickley Township
  2. Red Onion reunion possibly the last for Hempfield coal mining village
  3. Heroin suspect out of Westmoreland County jail on $100K bond
  4. Police: Scottdale man had child porn on computer
  5. Judge denies former New Alexandria tree trimmer another chance
  6. Police: Greensburg man had heroin, stolen gun
  7. Hempfield murderer serving life sentence promises restitution when he’s released
  8. Ligonier Valley YMCA project in public phase
  9. Westmoreland torture-slaying convict Smyrnes says death row isolation too cruel
  10. Derry man gets 19-year prison sentence for recording sex assaults of girl
  11. Monessen home invasion ‘ringleader’ denied leniency