Name change will be costly
Pittsburghers know it as the Parkway West, but the highway actually has three different names — and Congress wants to give it another name entirely.
But there’s no money to pay for the costly transformation.
Congress agreed to a new name — Interstate 376 — and added the highway to the nation’s interstate system as part of a federal transportation bill approved July 29.
State and federal highway officials plan to meet soon to decide who pays the estimated $80 million to $90 million to upgrade the road now known as I-279, Route 22/30 and Route 60 to interstate standards.
“The first step now is for us to meet with PennDOT, which we’ll try to do in the next two weeks, to determine what areas of the road need to be improved,” said Angelo Terrana, an aide to U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart, R-Bradford Woods. “Then we’ll try to come up with a dollar amount as to how much the improvements will cost.”
PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick says the changes required to bring the highway up to Federal Highway Administration standards are estimated to cost up to $90 million.
The changes include sign changes and highway widening, including a portion along Route 60, according to Pam Golden, spokeswoman for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.
Kirkpatrick said state highway money is tight and PennDOT will seek waivers to FHWA requirements in order to lower the cost.
“It’s just not clear what authority is in this bill to waive those requirements,” Kirkpatrick said. “Our feeling is that the facility works pretty well now. Obviously, there are folks in the region that say for the sake of travelers, it should be designated I-376. Our concern always is how we manage our scarce resources.”
The four-lane highway running from the Fort Pitt Tunnel to Pittsburgh International Airport has three names in three sections. From the tunnel to Interstate 79 it’s called Interstate 279. From I-79 to the split with Business Route 60, it is called Route 22/30. Then, from the split to the airport and north into Beaver County, it’s Route 60.
Currently, I-376 is the highway running between Downtown and the eastern suburbs, into Monroeville — also called the Parkway East.
Interstate 376 meets Interstate 279 at the Fort Pitt Bridge.
Kirkpatrick said PennDOT hasn’t determined how much it would be willing to spend to change the name, but there is a limit.
“It’s hard to speculate at the moment,” he said about that limit. “The cost has been a stumbling block in the past.”
Terrana said the goal is to provide federal money in the next round of highway appropriations, in October 2007. The state will have to kick in a portion of the costs, he said. That’s another topic officials will discuss.
Some money might come from proposed highway projects in the Parkway West corridor that already are in PennDOT’s plans, Terrana said. He didn’t know yesterday what projects might apply.
“We’ll make sure we do whatever we can to make this process as speedy as possible,” Terrana said.