Kathy Liebler
                        Director of Public Information

    C   O   M   M   I   S   S   I   O   N                N   E   W   S             R   E   L   E   A   S   E

    Contact: Thomas A. Fox, (724) 755-5260, (724) 755-5142 fax                     May 12, 1998

Note to radio stations:
Voice actualities by PTC spokesman
Joe Agnello are available by calling the
Turnpike Information Broadcast
Service (TIBS) at 1-800-563-5425.


The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued a Record of Decision (ROD) for the Southern Beltway Project between Pa. Route 60 in Findlay Township, Allegheny County and U.S. Route 22 in Robinson Township, Washington County.

FHWA's action represents final environmental clearance and means the Turnpike Commission can proceed with final design of the preferred alternative identified in the Final Environmental Impact Statement. The expressway is to have two 12-foot lanes in each direction separated by a 60-foot median. Funds have been committed to complete final design. The selected alignment for the six-mile tolled expressway runs south and slightly west from Pa. Route 60 (the Southern Expressway) at Pittsburgh International Airport to U.S. Route 22 between the existing Bavington and Pa. Route 980 interchanges. In addition to the two end points, interchanges will be located at U.S. Route 30 southeast of Clinton and at the junction of Bald Knob Road, Ridge Road and Burgettstown Road just north of the Washington County line.

U.S. Route 30 is to be widened at the interchange to include a turning lane and, if necessary, a traffic signal.

Reclaimed strip mines and landfills are the predominant topographic features within the area studied for the Findlay Connector, one of three independent projects that would form a 30-mile beltway to improve traffic flow between Pittsburgh International Airport and the Mon/Fayette Expressway near Finleyville, Washington County.

During circulation of the Final Environmental Impact Statement between February 6, and March 9, 1998, officials confirmed reports that short-eared owls had nested in grasslands near the proposed Bald Knob Road/Ridge Road/Burgettstown Road interchange. Short-eared owls are listed as an endangered species in Pennsylvania. Measures to mitigate the project's potential impacts on their habitat are to be coordinated with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The Turnpike Commission is committed to monitoring the presence of short-eared owls during final design, compensating for about 87 acres of rangeland habitat to be impacted by the expressway's right-of-way and providing information and technical assistance to help local municipal officials guide expected development near the interchange so that impacts are appropriately minimized.

Other environmental mitigation efforts will be focused on minimizing impacts to streams and replacing approximately eight acres of wetlands to be impacted by construction of the expressway. Approximately 75 percent of the area studied during the analysis of alternatives has been strip mined.

It is estimated that 6,500 vehicles per day (in design year 2020) will use the Findlay Connector to enter or exit Pittsburgh International Airport from U.S. Route 22 West without using Pa. Route 60. Travel time to the airport will be reduced substantially for traffic throughout the project area. The expressway also is expected to facilitate orderly development in areas south and west of the airport.

Project costs are estimated at $150 million and include final design, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation, waste disposal and construction.

Expressway alternatives are being evaluated for the two other Southern Beltway Projects - from U.S. Route 22 to Interstate 79 and from I-79 to the Mon/Fayette Expressway. Each project requires a separate environmental impact statement. Records of Decision are anticipated in Winter 2000-2001 for the U.S. Route 22-to-I-79 Project and in Winter 2001-2002 for the I-79-to-Mon/Fayette Expressway Project.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly authorized the Turnpike Commission to develop the Southern Beltway in Act 26 of 1991.


         P.O. Box 67676, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7676         Phone: (717) 939-9551         Fax: (717) 986-9649