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More funding provided for Mon-Fayette Expressway

Turnpike Commission bond refinancing and savings on projects will provide about $250 million to push along construction of the Uniontown-to-Brownsville section of the Mon-Fayette Expressway, according to state Sen. Richard Kasunic.

Kasunic met with the Turnpike Commission earlier in the year to make any residual funding from other turnpike projects available for construction for the link.

At first, Kasunic thought the available money would be between $50 to $80 million. But after the Turnpike Commission refinanced and restructured some costs, $250 million became available from a project that’s estimated to be a total of about $490 million.

The Uniontown-to-Brownsville section, which nearly parallels Route 40, includes a proposed new bridge to span the Monongahela River between Luzerne Township, Fayette County, and Centerville, Washington County.

“We’ve come a long way with everybody’s cooperation,” says Kasunic.

Kasunic said the expressway will be the biggest thing to happen since coal was king back in the 1940s and 1950s and hopes it will breath new life into the county for the next generation.

Fayette County Commissioner Vincent Vicites said it’s “excellent” to have half the funding for the project covered, and Kasunic should be commended.

Vicites, who has been working alongside Kasunic on the project, wrote a letter on Sept. 15 to West Virginia State Sen. Robert Byrd, stressing the importance to both Pennsylvania and West Virginia with getting the expressway completed.

Along with Byrd, Vicites also contacted West Virginia Governor Bob Wise and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell as well as other Pennsylvania legislators.

“This highway is important to both West Virginia and Pennsylvania,” wrote Vicites. “Many people in southwestern Pennsylvania would use the highway, spending tourism dollars in West Virginia as well as West Virginians traveling north to Pennsylvania.”

West Virginia, said Vicites, is “very receptive” with the completion of the expressway. The state has already put $30 million in the project, but it needs federal money on the table so the project can be completed in a timely manner.

When completed, Vicites said the expressway will help Fayette County turn a corner even further in job growth and attracting businesses to the area. He said the county is the only one in Pennsylvania without a divided four-lane highway.

Fayette County will see a tremendous amount of private investment, bringing a higher level of success along with business to the county, Vicites believes.

Kasunic said, following the completion of design work and right-of-way acquisition, construction bids should occur in late 2005 and early 2006.

After the link is complete, the expressway will provide a continuous modern highway from I-68 in West Virginia to Route 51 in Jefferson Hills.

The 15-mile section is in the final design and property acquisition phase. Although construction isn’t slated to begin for 18 to 24 months, the section is next in line to tap into construction funds.

Kasunic said turnpike officials have assured him the Uniontown-to-Brownsville section is the priority.

The remaining proposed section of the Mon-Fayette Expressway from Route 51 to the Parkway East into Pittsburgh is several years behind the Uniontown-to-Brownsville section, according to Joe Agnello, a Turnpike Commission spokesman.

The dream of a superhighway from Morgantown to Pittsburgh to spur economic development in Fayette County and the Mon Valley dates back more than 50 years.


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