Media & Public Relations

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Carl DeFebo
Manager, Media & Public Relations Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
Desk (717) 920-7176

March 4, 2008


Turnpike Commission to Test Private-Sector Interest in Building Two Unfinished Pittsburgh-Area Toll Roads

HARRISBURG, PA (03/04/2008; 1712)(readMedia)-- The five-member Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is looking to gauge interest among private corporations to build the remaining incomplete sections of the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway projects near Pittsburgh. At its regular biweekly meeting, the commission today approved a measure to advertise for a Request for Expressions of Interest (REI) "for the financing and/or design, engineering, construction, operation of un-built segments" of the two toll roads. The three sections together represent 50 miles of new expressway - with a price tag of nearly $5.2 billion in total - in Allegheny and Washington counties.

"In order to complete the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway, we made a commitment to analyze all funding options, including Public-Private Partnerships, or 'P3s,' which we have been exploring for the last 12 months or more," said Turnpike CEO Joe Brimmeier. "A P3 may indeed prove to be the best way to ensure the timely completion of these long-awaited projects, and by issuing the REI we're taking the next step in the process."

House Transportation Committee Chairman Joseph Markosek, D-Allegheny/Westmoreland, last month called on the Turnpike to seek alternative funding for the highways. In a letter to Brimmeier, Rep. Markosek asked him to consider a P3 and to study how the private sector could be utilized to accelerate construction.

"I believe completion of the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway is of critical importance to the economic viability and the survival of the Southwestern Pennsylvania region," Rep. Markosek said. "However, as chairman of the Transportation Committee, I am keenly aware of the limited financial resources available for transportation infrastructure and capacity improvement projects."

The Turnpike Commission is fully committed to advancing the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway to completion, specifically PA Route 51 to Pittsburgh and the remaining sections of the Southern Beltway.

"We have maximized the revenue from two streams of state funding created specifically for Turnpike expansion projects," Brimmeier said. "Significant pieces of both systems are now open to traffic, and by the year 2012, we will have approximately 60 continuous miles of highway from West Virginia to Route 51."

However, Rep. Markosek believes public dollars alone will never be enough, given the magnitude of this endeavor.

"At some point, the waiting game has to end. State funding is not getting the job done on a reasonable timeline, and the federal government has made no significant contribution. People rightly want to see the fruition of these highways." Rep. Markosek said. "The possibility of what a public-private partnership may offer relative to the new construction components of these projects are worthy of further exploration."

Brimmeier said the Turnpike Commission presently has the authority to enter into P3s when in the best interest of the Commission, and so no additional legislation would be needed. The General Assembly tasked the Turnpike Commission with advancing these projects with passage of Act 61 of 1985.

The 50 miles of tolled expressway not yet under construction include the 24-mile Mon-Fayette Expressway project in Allegheny County north from Pa. Route 51 in Jefferson Hills to Interstate 376 in Pittsburgh and Monroeville. Now in final design, the alignment traverses Jefferson Hills, West Mifflin, Dravosburg, Duquesne, North Versailles, Turtle Creek, Wilkins, Monroeville, Penn Hills, East Pittsburgh, North Braddock, Braddock, Swissvale, Rankin and the City of Pittsburgh.

Also unbuilt are two independent but interconnected Southern Beltway projects that would extend the beltway system another 25.8 miles south and east from U.S. Route 22 in Robinson Township, Washington County to the existing Mon-Fayette Expressway (Turnpike 43) in Union Township, Washington County. The first 6 miles of the proposed 32-mile Southern Beltway, south from the Pa. Route 60 Expressway at Pittsburgh International Airport in Findlay Township, Allegheny County to Route 22, opened in October 2006.

The "middle" Southern Beltway project is roughly 13.3 miles and traverses Robinson Township, Cecil Township and Mount Pleasant Township in Washington County and South Fayette Township in Allegheny County. It would link with Interstate 79 at the Allegheny-Washington County line between the existing Bridgeville and Southpointe interchanges on I-79.

The easternmost Southern Beltway project, entirely in Washington County, is approximately 12.5 miles and traverses Cecil Township, a corner of Peters Township, North Strabane Township, Nottingham Township and Union Township.

Cost estimates are approximately $3.8 billion for the northernmost leg of the Mon-Fayette system, $659 million for the Southern Beltway project from Route 22 to Interstate 79 and $735 million for the Southern Beltway project from I-79 to Turnpike 43.

All segments of the Mon-Fayette Expressway system south of Jefferson Hills (approximately 56 miles) will be completed by late 2011 or early 2012 when the Turnpike Commission opens Phase 2 of the Mon-Fayette Uniontown-to-Brownsville area project between Redstone Township, Fayette County and Centerville Borough, Washington County. Phase 1 advanced to construction in February 2006 and will open in fall 2008.

The 3.4 miles of the Mon-Fayette system in West Virginia should be mostly complete when Pennsylvania finishes the second half of the 17-mile Uniontown-to-Brownsville area project. However, West Virginia Department of Transportation's Division of Highways is not scheduled to open bids for completion of the big interchange with Interstate 68 until fall 2012.

The Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway systems are being developed to improve access to Mon River communities and highly developable tracts near Pittsburgh International Airport, improve mobility to job centers, support redevelopment of abandoned industrial sites and neighborhoods, better compartmentalize traffic and to relieve traffic congestion on overburdened and undersized roadways.