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Thu May 25, 2023 - Northeast Edition
Members of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) and state and local elected officials broke ground May 22 signifying that construction is under way on the latest phase of the Mon/Fayette Expressway stretching from Pa. Highway 51 to Interstate 376 on the project's southern section.
Decades ago, Pennsylvania state legislators entrusted the PTC with building the Mon/Fayette Expressway (Pa. Turnpike 43) and in 1988 the first section of the roadway got under way.
Since then, the Mon/Fayette Expressway has been part of the southwestern Pennsylvania landscape leading into the Mon Valley, formed by the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers in Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland counties, south of Pittsburgh.
As funding became available, sections of the Mon/Fayette Expressway were completed creating the current 54 miles of highway from I-68 near Morgantown, W. Va. to Jefferson Hills Borough in Allegheny County, Pa.
With the Pennsylvania Legislature's passing of Act 89 in 2013, a funding stream was made available to move ahead with the next section of the four-lane highway through the region's hills and valleys.
"As a native of the Mon Valley, I'm excited to see the final leg of this project moving forward," said Pa. Lt. Gov. Austin Davis. "This construction will support thousands of jobs right here in southwestern Pennsylvania."
To get started, the PTC created two phases of the latest construction effort, south and north of the Monongahela River. The first phase, in the southern sector, will extend 8 mi. from Pa. 51 in Jefferson Hills Borough to Pa 837 in Duquesne, Allegheny County.
"This southern phase alone is so massive that it needed to be divided into seven construction sections at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion," explained Mike Carroll, chair of the PTC, and secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). "But construction creates opportunity, and we expect that it will generate nearly $2.8 billion for the economy across the Mon Valley."
The first construction section was awarded to Bensalem, Pa.-based Trumbull Corp., which has a field office in Jefferson Hills Borough. Its crews have begun working on clearing trees and moving dirt in preparation for building the three-mi.-long section of expressway from Pa. 51 to Coal Valley Road.
At nearly $214 million, the initial contract will require Trumbull to excavate more than four million cu. yds. of earth and build six bridges. Five of the structures will be built as part of the main line of the Mon/Fayette while the sixth will carry Pa. 885 over the new freeway. In addition, a cashless toll point also will be erected within this section.
"Beyond the obvious benefits of creating a safe, reliable, and open roadway for easy travel, this project and others like it also create an opportunity for development in the area," noted state Sen. James Brewster, D-45th District. "Just look at how the opening of the Southern Beltway has spurred commercial and industrial development in the airport corridor with the recent announcement of the Fort Cherry Development District. Once the Mon/Fayette Expressway is finished, it will do the same for the Mon Valley."
When construction of both the southern and northern sections of the Pa. 51 to I-376 project is complete, the Mon/Fayette Expressway will allow traffic to travel 68 miles from Morgantown, W. Va. to Monroeville, Pa.
The PTC was assigned responsibility to develop the Mon/Fayette Expressway — along with several other southwestern Pennsylvania toll roads — by an act of the state legislature in the mid-1980s.
"Act 61 of 1985 called upon the PTC to develop several significant transportation projects, the largest of which are the Southern Beltway and the Mon/Fayette Expressway," explained Pennsylvania Turnpike Secretary-Treasurer Sean Logan. "Though construction was partially funded with the help of state tax dollars, the resulting miles of new highway are being operated and maintained by the PTC today without taxes."
He noted that Act 26 of 1991 elevated the priority of building the Southern Beltway and Mon/Fayette Expressway to improve highway access and mobility in the region.
The next Mon/Fayette construction contract is expected to go out for bid later this year.