|COMMISSION NEWS RELEASE|
|Pennsylvania Turnpike Starts Construction of Route 29 All-Electronic Interchange
Opening of the $48 million E-ZPass-only facility is expected in late 2012
|HARRISBURG, PA (03/24/2011)(readMedia)-- The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission today officially kicked off the construction of a new All-Electronic Interchange linking State Route 29 with the mainline Turnpike (Interstate 76) in Chester County. Turnpike leaders were joined this morning by federal, state and local elected officials and area business executives at a groundbreaking ceremony on the site of the new cashless connection in East Whiteland Township. The link will be solely for use by E-ZPass customers, who make up nearly two thirds of all Turnpike travelers in the state.
"We're here to celebrate the beginning of a critical infrastructure project that will undoubtedly improve the quality of life for residents and commuters in the surrounding area," said Turnpike Chief Operating Officer Craig R. Shuey. "Many also consider the Route 29-Turnpike interchange to be a central component for the continued economic growth of this region."
The $48 million project will result in the creation of the Turnpike Commission's first full - or "four-way" - All-Electronic Interchange (AEI) that will allow anyone with an E-ZPass account to get on or off I-76 in either direction, providing access to and from heavily traversed Route 29 (Morehall Road). The Turnpike's existing all-electronic interchanges, the Virginia Drive Interchange in Montgomery County and the Street Road Interchange in Bucks County, provide half an interchange - westbound on and off for the former and eastbound on and off for the latter.
"This AEI will enhance mobility for thousands of daily commuters throughout the corridor, improving safety and convenience not only for Turnpike users but anyone else using the region's roadway network," said Shuey. "The new link will shorten travel times, help relieve overcrowding on local roads and at adjacent Turnpike interchanges and provide better access to burgeoning corporate centers nearby."
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, which first considered building a direct link with Route 29 utilizing E-ZPass approximately 12 years ago, has made a commitment to move expeditiously during construction; it anticipates the new junction will open to traffic in the fall of 2012 - about a year and a half from the start of construction. When it opens, it will be designated as Interchange #320.
Located about midway between the Downingtown exit (#312) and the Valley Forge exit (#326), the new facility will provide convenient access to and from area business developments such as the Great Valley Corporate Center, the Commons at Great Valley, Atwater and business districts in Malvern and Paoli. It will reduce congestion at the Valley Forge Interchange, at the I-76/Route 202 interchange and on Route 202 itself, and will contribute to an overall reduction in traffic on Route 29 near Swedesford Road and Matthews Road and on Route 401 and Phoenixville Pike west of Route 29.
In addition to the four new Turnpike on and off ramps, the project calls for ramp bridges to be built over the Turnpike, over Yellow Springs Road, over Atwater Drive as well as construction of a culvert and several retaining walls. The project also calls for the construction of a new signalized, multi-lane intersection on Route 29 about a half-mile south of Yellow Springs Road - where the access road to and from the Turnpike will tie into Route 29. The overall work area will cover one-half mile along the Turnpike in Charlestown Township, East Whiteland Township and Tredyffrin Township.
The project - funded by toll revenues without any state or federal tax dollars - is being constructed by Allan A. Myers Inc. of Worcester, Pa. The design work for the interchange, initially begun in 2002, was performed by STV Inc. of Douglassville, Pa. The proposal to develop an unmanned connection between the Turnpike and Route 29 was first introduced in 1999; at the time, planners referred to the facility as the Route 29 Slip Ramps - a term that has since been replaced by AEI.
In March 2009, the Turnpike shelved plans to build the Route 29 Interchange while it worked to resolve design issues with the widening of the six-mile Turnpike section to the east of Route 29 between mileposts 320 and 326. After working with elected officials, residents and interest groups to address concerns about the widening - mostly involving storm-water management and noise walls - the Turnpike announced last August that it would advance the Route 29 project to construction having sufficiently resolved some of the design issues.
Each day, 45,000 to 50,000 vehicles travel the 14-mile stretch of Turnpike between Downingtown and Valley Forge.
In addition to the Route 29 project, a fourth Turnpike AEI is currently being developed on the Northeastern Extension (I-476) in Penn Forest Township, Carbon County, between the Mahoning Valley Exit (#74) and the Pocono Exit (#95). Officials expect this new link with Route 903 will open in the first half of 2014. The Turnpike's first AEI, the Virginia Drive Interchange, opened to traffic in December, 2000; the Street Road Interchange, its second, opened in November, 2010.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike is making it easier than ever to get E-ZPass. Most customers still join online at www.paturnpike.com or by calling 1-877-Penn-Pass (1-877-736-6727). Some Pennsylvania grocery retailers also offer E-ZPass sign-ups at the customer-service desks, including Acme Markets. Most of the state's AAA offices offer E-ZPass tag sales, and E-ZPass vending machines called Tag Tellers are located inside select Pennsylvania Turnpike travel plazas.