Proposed plan could link Mon-Fayette Expressway, Route 885
Imagine a commute from Jefferson Hills to Pittsburgh taking only a few minutes.
State Rep. Mike Puskaric (R-Washington/Allegheny) says he has a plan that could make such a drive a reality. By adding a three-mile connector from the Mon-Fayette Expressway to Route 885, South Hills and Mon Valley residents could see significantly shorter drive times, he says.
“Really, the beauty of it is anybody who owns property south of the City of Pittsburgh, anywhere near this corridor, their property values are going to go up substantially,” he said.
The proposed plan involves building a connector road from the Mon-Fayette Expressway, which itself is in the middle of an expansion project, beginning near the Allegheny County Airport, Puskaric said. The connector would run for roughly three miles to link with Route 885 near the Glenwood Bridge in Pittsburgh. A direct exit into the county airport also is being considered, Puskaric said. He also is working with Port Authority of Allegheny County to look at adding a dedicated bus lane on the connector.
“That way, anybody coming out of the City of Pittsburgh that needs to catch some sort of flight from there, they can do so and it would cut their travel time,” he said.
Puskaric sees the proposed connector as a benefit for development in the Mon Valley.
He said residents from across the area have told him “Harrisburg had never really delivered” on a promise to give them them a corridor into the city, he said.
The Mon-Fayette Expressway runs from Morgantown to Jefferson Hills. A $2.1 billion expansion is under way to connect the road to Monroeville and I-376.
The work is being done in two sections, with the southern portion leading to Duquesne likely breaking ground in 2021, said Matt Burd, interchange and special projects unit manager with the Turnpike Commission. The southern section is in the final design phase and is going through all the final steps to move forward with construction, he said.
A timeframe has not been set for when the second expansion project — taking the road from Duquesne to Monroeville — will be complete.
The Mon-Fayette Expressway project initially included plans to tie into the city from East Pittsburgh to Bates Street in Oakland. That portion of the project was axed in the early 2000s, Burd said, due largely to the $2.1 billion cost. Other issues included residential and business displacement and environmental impact.
“It essentially would have doubled the cost,” he said.
The connector Puskaric is proposing likely would have a $2 million to $3 million cost, he said.
Because the connector likely would not be a toll road, Puskaric plans to work with PennDOT on the project.
“This is just conversation right now,” said Cheryl Moon-Sirianni, PennDOT district executive.
PennDOT representatives provided Puskaric with all of the steps it would take to get the project completed, she said. It would start with a study examining alternatives, environmental and utility concerns, right-of-way impasse and cost, she said.
“From there, the project obviously would have to be funded before it could even start design,” she said. “None of those steps have taken place.”
But first comes finding money for the study, she said.
In the next few weeks, Moon-Sirianni said, PennDOT leaders plan to meet with Puskaric and other stakeholders in the project to look at opportunities for funding.
“Funding is very competitive in this region just to maintain the roads we have. That will be a challenge,” she said.
Even if money were readily available, between the study and design and build of the road, the project likely would take five years, she said.
Furthermore, the Mon-Fayette Expressway expansion needs to be completed before the road can connect to it.
The portion leading from Jefferson Hills to Duquesne likely will undergo construction in 2021, with a planned completion date of 2026.