|COMMISSION NEWS RELEASE|
|Pa. Turnpike Commission Reactivates Design of $632.5 Million Southern-Beltway Project
Construction of Route 22 to I-79 Project expected to begin as soon as 2014.
|Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Chairman William K. Lieberman announced today that the commission is reactivating the final design for the next leg of the Southern Beltway (Pa. Turnpike 576) known as the U.S. Route 22 to Interstate 79 Project, with construction likely to begin as soon as 2014.
The 13-mile, tolled expressway will extend from the southern terminus of the existing, six-mile Southern Beltway section, called the Findlay Connector, which opened in October 2006. It will start at Route 22 in eastern Washington County, proceed southeast into western Allegheny County near McDonald and tie into I-79 at the Washington-Allegheny County line.
Lieberman, a Pittsburgh businessman, said the Route 22 to I-79 Project will improve safety and access, relieve congestion and help stimulate economic development throughout the area.
“The fact that we’re moving ahead with this project is significant news for motorists in the corridor because it will help ease congestion on arteries like the Parkway West, I-79 and Pennsylvania Route 50,” Lieberman said. “It will provide emergency-response vehicles, businesses and the public with a safer alternative to rural, two-lane roads.”
The Route 22 to I-79 Project is expected to take about six years to complete, depending on the availability of construction funding, with an opening anticipated sometime around 2020. The project cost of roughly $632.5 million, which includes engineering design, property acquisition, utility relocations, construction, construction management and construction inspection services, is to be funded with a mix of state tax revenues, bonding and federal loans; no toll dollars are being spent on the project
Toll collection on the new segment is being designed as All-Electronic Tolling (AET) in conjunction with the commission's five-year conversion to a cashless system. With AET, customers pay with E-ZPass or video tolling, where a license-plate image is captured and a toll invoice mailed to the vehicle owner. Because no brick-and-mortar tollbooths are needed, AET is less expensive to design and build. The overhead frames that house the tolling apparatus, called gantries, require less physical space and therefore fewer property acquisitions than traditional cash tollbooths.
The first construction contract, expected to be awarded in 2014, will be for a major bridge to carry the Southern Beltway over U.S. Route 22 and serve as a part of the interchange linking Route 22 and the Beltway. Then, beginning in 2016, the Turnpike Commission expects to begin awarding a number of separate construction contracts for the roadway sections and five interchanges that will make up the Route 22 to I-79 Project.
Lieberman said the new expressway will serve as an economic boon, providing enhanced access to existing business and industrial parks and serving as a catalyst for new commercial development nearby. Overall, the project is expected to create more than 20,000 full and part-time jobs with a total impact to the state’s economy of nearly $2.7 billion.
“When opened to traffic, the Route 22 to I-79 Project will create economic opportunities in Findlay, Robinson, Mount Pleasant, Cecil and North and South Fayette townships,” he said. “It will provide better access to sites being developed by the Allegheny County Airport Authority and a direct link from I-79 to more than 4,000 acres of private, untapped commercial and industrial lands.”
In addition to improving local travel and economic conditions, Lieberman said the Route 22 to I-79 Project is a key component of the ground-transportation network for the entire region.
“The new beltway section will make it faster and easier for many travelers to access Pittsburgh International Airport as well as the growing retail and residential zones near the airport,” he said. “Plus, it will create the next major piece of a planned beltway around the City of Pittsburgh in accordance with local comprehensive land use and regional planned-growth studies.”
The Route 22 to I-79 Project will extend the Southern Beltway to 19 total miles, connecting I-79 to I-376 at the Pittsburgh International Airport; it is expected to double traffic on Findlay Connector to approximately 6,500 vehicles per day.
Five engineering firms are presently engaged in the final design of the Route 22 to I-79 Project: Michael Baker Jr. Inc., Moon Township, Pa. is design manager; ms consultants, inc., Coraopolis, Pa. is handling environmental engineering; and engineering design is being completed under three separate contracts with Mackin Engineering, Pittsburgh, Greenhorne & O'Mara Inc., Mechanicsburg, Pa., and PB Americas Inc., Pittsburgh.
The Turnpike Commission began acquiring properties needed to construct the Route 22 to I-79 Project in early 2009. To date, there have been 100 total property acquisitions, and the commission is actively pursuing 60 partial acquisitions – 20 of which have been amicably resolved. The cost of property acquisition to date is about $50 million. Upon completion of final design, the commission estimates that 160 additional acquisitions (most of them partial acquisitions) will be necessary to proceed to construction.
The third and final portion of the Southern Beltway would link Interstate 79 to the existing piece of the Mon-Fayette Expressway, near Finleyville. An alignment and timeframe for this 12.5-mile, $700 million Southern Beltway stretch has not yet been finalized.