|COMMISSION NEWS RELEASE|
|Governor Corbett and Pa. Turnpike Vice Chairman Pratt
Mark Opening of Mon/Fayette Expressway Project near Brownsville
Completion of new Pa. Turnpike section means renewed hope for region’s economy.
|Governor Tom Corbett joined Pennsylvania Turnpike Commissioners, elected officials and other dignitaries this morning in cutting a ribbon to formally celebrate the opening of the Mon/Fayette Expressway’s Uniontown-to-Brownsville Phase-2 project. The event took place on a new, half-mile signature bridge over the Monongahela River near the Washington County/Fayette County line.
“This bridge we stand by today represents a major engineering and construction achievement, but it means something much more to the citizens of the Mon Valley,” Governor Corbett noted. “It represents renewed hope and opportunity for the people in an area where coal and steel once dominated — people looking for a brighter tomorrow for themselves and for their families.”
Celebrating the culmination of more than four years of construction activity on the eight-mile highway, Corbett said the cars and trucks moving up and down the newly opened expressway symbolize how transportation and commerce are unavoidably linked.
“Our growing energy sector is building jobs and requires transportation,” Corbett said. “This expressway is carrying us into the future. It provides a link between western Pennsylvania and the rest of the world, connecting a nation and bringing us into the new industrial revolution.”
The Uniontown-to-Brownsville Phase 2 project opened July 16, and has seen traffic in its first two weeks totaling more than 17,000 cars and trucks — or about 1,200 vehicles per day. Traffic projections call for that number to grow to 4,500-5,000 vehicles per day by the end of calendar year 2012.
Governor Corbett was joined in the ceremony by Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Vice Chairman A. Michael Pratt, who hosted the event. Pratt — who was born in Grindstone, Pa., raised in Uniontown, Pa. and graduated from Uniontown Area High School and Washington and Jefferson College — said he understands what the project means to residents in communities along the expressway.
“Having been born and raised in Fayette County, I know firsthand that access to modern transportation systems will help create better economic opportunities, so I’m pleased to stand here to celebrate the completion of this beautiful highway and observe a triumph for the Turnpike, the Commonwealth and especially the residents of this region,” said Pratt, a Harvard Law School graduate. “The Mon/Fayette is one of the largest ground-transportation projects in the nation, and this opening signifies a major milestone for all who made it happen.”
With the opening of the Phase 2 project last month, the Turnpike Commission has completed three of four Mon/Fayette sections resulting in 60 continuous miles of expressway from Interstate 68 in West Virginia north to Route 51 in Jefferson Hills Borough. The other Mon/Fayette Expressway projects completed to date are: the I-70 to Pa. Route 51 project in Washington and Allegheny counties; the I-68 to Pa. Route 43 project in Fayette County; and four miles completed by West Virginia from the state line to I-68 in Morgantown.
Governor Corbett praised the contributions of many dedicated people who worked tirelessly to bring the expressway from a mere concept more than a quarter century ago to a reality.
“Decades of hard times, the loss of so much of our steel industry and the difficult years for coal made this expressway even more important,” Corbett said. “So today, 50 years after the expressway was first conceived, we are nearing completion. To everyone who dreamed and believed; congratulations and thank you.”
Completion of this third of four sections represents the culmination of more than 25 years of work on the Mon/Fayette Expressway system by the Pennsylvania Turnpike. But the concept of improved access to the corridor can be traced back a quarter century before that. The vision for a transportation-improvement project in the Mon Valley began 50 years ago when the goal of the Commonwealth was to serve predominant industries of steel, coal and coke production in the 1960s. With the economic decline of the 1970s and 80s, planning efforts were refocused to develop better highway access and mobility and help spur redevelopment in the area.
Total investment in the Mon/Fayette projects is almost $2 billion to date by the Turnpike Commission, primarily from Commonwealth funding sources. The Commission has received a share of state Oil Franchise Tax revenues since 1992 and a fixed disbursement from vehicle registration fee revenues since 1997 that have been used to design and build sections of the Mon/Fayette Expressway exclusively along with a lesser portion of federal funds. No mainline toll revenues have been used to build the Mon/Fayette Expressway.
“With the backing of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and PennDOT, the Turnpike has invested in a roadway to connect communities and deliver new prospects for growth — an accomplishment that demanded the assistance and energies of thousands,” Pratt concluded. “But we can’t stop now. The legislature assigned the Turnpike the responsibility to build this expressway north to the City of Pittsburgh. With the support of the governor, state lawmakers, and fellow Turnpike Commissioners, we now turn our attention to finishing the job.”