ShareThis Page
Expressway link in Plan B |

Expressway link in Plan B

| Wednesday, January 25, 2006 12:00 a.m

For the first time since construction began on the Mon/Fayette Expressway, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has turned to “Plan B” because it is running out of money.

The commission Tuesday awarded the first of five roadway construction contracts that will begin by the summer for 9.2 miles of the Mon/Fayette system, which has been dubbed phase I of the Uniontown-to-Brownsville section of the highway.

The new section will extend northwest from Route 51 near Uniontown to a new Brownsville connector that will tie into the U.S. Route 40 “stub.”

The stretch is expected to open in early 2009.

Mashuda’s was the lowest of six bids for the project, which includes a diamond-shaped interchange and another new connector to Route 40 between the villages of Searights and Keisterville. Bids were opened last month.

The stub was planned for local traffic access. But it represents a deviation from the plan to construct 15.2 miles of continuous expressway through the heart of Fayette County.

When completed, northbound motorists would take the expressway to the Davidson Exit, travel over the existing Lane-Bane Bridge to Route 88 and then back onto the expressway.

“We have $200 million to spend on the Uniontown-to-Brownsville section,” Turnpike spokesman Joe Agnello said. “We had to decide the best way to spend that money. This was the smartest thing to do in case we do not have the money for the whole 15.2 miles.”

Phase II has an even bigger estimated price tag than phase I – as much as $300 million – because it would include construction of a new bridge over the Monongahela River on the Brownsville end of the project as well as completion of an interchange at the intersection of Route 51 and 119 at Uniontown end. Half of that interchange will be built in Phase I.

If the money is available, Phase II bids could be sought this year, Agnello said. The commission has purchased 60 percent of the rights-of-way needed to build that section of the highway. Final design will be completed this year as well.

State Sen. J. Barry Stout (D-Bentleyville) said he recognizes there is a funding shortfall for Uniontown to Brownsville.

“We’re trying to get additional money for construction of that section,” said Stout, minority chairman of the State Transportation Commission.

“I’ve been advocating for additional money for the toll road expansion projects, but the peak spike in the gas prices has made it difficult to do any kind of gas tax increase.”

One penny of state gas tax raises roughly $65 million annually. The state gas tax currently amounts to 29.7 cents per gallon, up about 4 cents over the past 18 months because of increases in the liquid fuels tax. The rate is tied to prices at the pump.

In 1991, Stout authored the legislation that increased the oil franchise tax and provided the commission a percentage of the additional revenue.

In 1997, he wrote legislation that provides the commission with $28 million a year from an increase in the vehicle registration fees. That fee increased, for example, from $24 to $36 for registration of cars.

To date, roughly 35 miles of the nearly 70-mile expressway has been completed. Roughly 66 miles is located in Pennsylvania. Work is ongoing in West Virginia on about half of its 4.2-mile section.

Still left to complete is the Allegheny County section into Pittsburgh and Monroeville, a 24-mile highway estimated to cost $1.5 billion.

When completed, the highway would link the Mid-Mon Valley with Pittsburgh and Monroeville to the north and Interstate 68 near Cheat Lake in West Virginia to the south.

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.