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Agency to let Mon-Fayette plans hibernate

A federal agency won’t decide before May on a plan for spurs of the Mon-Fayette Expressway that could displace as many as 560 homes and 100 businesses in the city and eastern suburbs, a turnpike official said Monday.

Lou Washowich, public affairs officer for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, said the Federal Highway Administration had planned to release its decision in October. He said the delay is due in part to an evaluation of an alternative proposed by a group of highway opponents.

The Mon-Fayette Expressway is a $4 billion project linking Pittsburgh with Interstate 68 near Morgantown, W.Va. It also includes spurs to Monroeville and Pittsburgh International Airport, called the Southern Beltway. Construction of a 7-mile segment linking Route 60 with Route 22 in Washington County, called the Findlay Connector, is expected to start in November.

It could take five years to obtain money to build an extension of the toll road that would cross the Monongahela River in Duquesne and branch into East Pittsburgh, with one arm extending up into Monroeville and another traveling through Braddock and Rankin toward Pittsburgh.

The toll road has been completed north to Jefferson Hills, but the Turnpike Commission needs another $1.6 billion to build the Pittsburgh and Monroeville spurs, according to commission spokesman Joe Agnello. He said $300 million is available for final design and acquisition of properties for those spurs.

Agnello said the suburban communities that would see the greatest impact from the two proposed spurs are Monroeville, Turtle Creek, Braddock and North Versailles, which between them could see the displacement of as many as 332 residences and 73 businesses. Penn Hills, Swissvale and Wilkins would see no displacement of homes or businesses.

In addition, the Pittsburgh spur could displace as many as 236 homes and 29 businesses in the city, Agnello said.

Opponents to the project include PennFuture, Group Against Smog and Pollution, the Hazelwood Initiative, the Oakland Community Council and the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association. The consortium’s alternative calls for widening 52 miles of existing streets and highways in addition to building 10 miles of new roads and a mass transit component.

The roads portion of that plan would cost about $1.2 billion and the mass transit portion about $1.5 billion, according to Heather Sage, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit PennFuture.


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