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Section of Route 366 being widened to four lanes

| Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Work to move utility lines along Route 366 in New Kensington's Parnassus section is only a precursor of things to come this spring and summer.

As part of the second phase of the Parnassus Triangle Project, crews will be widening the highway between Bridge and Seventh streets this year. Work going on now near the Seventh Street Sportsman's Club is utility line work needed in preparation for the widening project.

Workers now are setting the concrete casing for a 10-inch waterline that has to be moved so the road can be expanded. Once that and other utility lines in the area are moved, they'll expand the almost one-mile stretch of road from two to four lanes so it matches up with the expanded and realigned Parnassus Triangle intersection.

"I'm sure there will be minimal occurrences where they have to stop traffic so a truck can cross the road, but it won't be any worse than normal," said Duane Moffat, the PennDOT project manager.

As part of the $8.5 million project, the decks of the bridge that carries Route 366 over Little Pucketa Creek, near Seventh Street, will be replaced. Since that bridge, though, already is four lanes, it should mean little in the way of further traffic backups since PennDOT officials note that traffic already is restricted to only one lane in each direction over the bridge.

"I'm not sure how far they'll get this year," Moffat said. "We'll start phase two this year. We're getting everything in gear; we've had good weather the last few weeks."

The utility line work is expected to take about a month. After that, crews can begin the road widening.

"It's a lot of work in a short distance," Moffat said.

The project should mean smoother traffic flow, but it may cost the city one of its long-time businesses.

Avis Rent A Car, owned by Lombardo Companies Inc., is being squeezed out, said owner Jay Lombardo.

Because PennDOT is using its rights-of-way on both sides of the road, Lombardo lost 22 parking spaces, making it difficult to find spots for his rental vehicles and those of customers.

He is now scrambling to park his cars and trucks on streets and in lots that other business owners are allowing him to use. He said construction crews started parking their equipment on what used to be his parking lot last week.

"They're not leaving me enough parking space to keep my equipment," he said. "This is not a tenable situation at all."

PennDOT Rights-of-Way Administrator Dan Bucan did not return calls for comment.

Moffat said the state must have bought some of Lombardo's right-of-way, but did not know enough about the specific case to comment further.

Lombardo said that, although PennDOT paid him for the land, it wasn't enough.

"The compensation I received did not reflect the land's value to the business," he said. "I am jeopardizing my Avis franchise by not keeping my cars in the same location."

He added that his customers are being inconvenienced by being forced to park far from the office and waiting for cars to be retrieved from their far-flung spaces.

"The corporate office has only so much patience," he said.

Lombardo said his request to have PennDOT pay to move his business was denied.

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