Construction to reduce traffic congestion around the Route 50 and Washington Pike intersection is scheduled this spring, but some officials from nearby municipalities would like to see more extensive work.
PennDOT and the developers of the planned Newbury complex near the intersection in South Fayette have said that the first phase of improvements is set. It would include adding a second left turn lane from Washington Pike onto Route 50, widening the Chartiers Creek Bridge, improving signals and drainage facilities, PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said.
Newbury’s state highway occupancy permit requires steps to accommodate increased traffic. The project is expected to cost nearly $3.4 million and will be covered by EQA Landmark Communities, which is developing Newbury, along with grants.
EQA Landmark Communities did not return calls for comment.
Some municipal leaders say they don’t believe the steps would alleviate problems, and traffic will only increase with a few planned developments.
“The timing of improvements doesn’t coincide with the issue we have today,” said Joe Sites of Gateway Engineers, which has offices in Canonsburg. His firm represents Bridgeville Borough.
The Newbury complex is to include retail, office and hotel space.
The Crossings at South Fayette, being built near the Interstate 79 Bridgeville interchange, will include Aldi, Starbucks and Chipotle, and restaurants and shops are expected to be built at and near the former Star City Cinemas site on Route 50.
This summer, a multi-community task force formed, and recently met with PennDOT to discuss future improvements. South Fayette, Bridgeville and Upper St. Clair representatives make up the core of the task force.
“The task force formed so communities could work together and collectively decide what problems the community had and could work with PennDOT to find what is feasible,” said Lori Collins, Bridgeville borough manager.
Others participating in the task force include representatives from EQA Landmark Communities, Collier and the office of state Sen. Matt Smith, (D-Mt. Lebanon).
“(The meetings) are going well. There is certainly a lot of interest in the area and it is an effort that is going to continue,” said Dan Cessna, PennDOT’s lead representative on the task force.
Conceptual designs created by Gateway Engineers and PVE Sheffler were presented at a Nov. 4 meeting. PennDOT will review the designs, and respond in December, Sites said.
“PennDOT was happy we came in with the drawings, and serious about what we were looking at,” said Mike Benton, director of engineering and planning in South Fayette.
Phase 1 of the task force’s designs focuses on the Washington Pike at Route 50 intersection.
The plan would expand the Chartiers Creek Bridge from 52 feet to 96 feet, add another lane on nearby Chartiers Street in Bridgeville to assist with traffic from Upper St. Clair and improve traffic signals.
Benton said most of the improvements are intended to improve access to the interstate, including adding a second right turn lane from Route 50 onto northbound Interstate 79.
“In the morning, 95 percent of the cars going through the intersection are trying to get on I-79, but once a car is going onto Route 50 it starts backing up,” he said.
About 700 vehicles travel through the area during peak hours, according to PennDOT.
The task force is looking at four phases of improvements that all begin with work at the Washington Pike and Route 50 intersection, but ultimately could include lane extensions to the Allegheny-Washington county line along Route 50 in South Fayette.
“We have to be looking 20 years into the future. We need stuff at the intersection right now but we’re also looking to the future,” Benton said.
There is no timeline for improvements, as proposed change will require traffic studies, he said.
Alex Felser is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5810 or [email protected].