Penn Township could get turnpike ramp on Route 130 following commission’s approval | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Penn Township could get turnpike ramp on Route 130 following commission’s approval

Jacob Tierney
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A turnpike interchange could be coming at last to Penn Township, though advocates likely still have a while to wait.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission voted Tuesday to allocate $30 million to build a cashless tolling interchange at state Route 130. The project was added to the commission’s 10-year capital plan.

Adding the ramp to the plan was a “first step,” and many details have yet to be worked out, commission spokesman Carl DeFebo said.

“I don’t have a lot of information on it right now, except for the location,” DeFebo said.

The move comes during a groundswell of local support for the project.

“I was working very, very closely with (local leaders) in the past few months to find a way to get this project on the 10-year plan.” said state Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield. She chairs the Senate Transportation Committee.

Officials from Penn Township and neighboring communities have discussed the possibility of a turnpike interchange for more than a decade. Talks got more serious in 2017 when the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission released a feasibility study considering the process.

The study found it would cost almost $30 million to build cashless turnpike ramps on Route 130 in Penn Township. However, these ramps would bring an estimated 8,000 additional cars a day to the already-busy roadway, requiring the road to be widened and improved.

This would cost an estimated additional $38 million.

PennDOT maintains Route 130, so the project will require coordination between that agency and the turnpike commission.

DeFebo said this type of collaboration is common, though it’s to soon to say what specific form it might take in this case.

“We do it every day,” he said.

A second study, commissioned by Penn Township and performed by Delta Development, found a new ramp would be profitable within five years.

Since then, local support for the interchange has grown.

The Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter supporting the project.

Penn Township, North Huntingdon, Trafford, Irwin, Murrysville, Manor and Jeannette all passed resolutions calling for the construction of an interchange.

DeFebo said this type of support can help make projects happen by letting commissioners know what should be prioritized.

The turnpike passes through Penn Township but does not offer motorists a way get on or off. Advocates say a new interchange would give Pittsburgh’s eastern suburbs easier access to the city and encourage development.

“Penn Township is essentially locked in,” Ward said. “You have to travel a good ways to get to a turnpike or a highway. This will help bring in more business because they’ll have access.”

Cashless interchanges read E-ZPass transponders or use cameras to toll by license plates.

Now the project is on PennDOT’s to-do list, but a specific timetable has not been set.

Ward said she’ll try to ensure it happens sooner rather than later. She’s working on a bill that would reduce the mandated payments the turnpike commission makes to the state’s mass transit fund, which could free up more money for major construction projects.

“Our next step is trying to get that project expedited,” she said.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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