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Major Phase of Mon/Fayette Expressway Awarded to Pittsburgh Contractor

Thu January 19, 2023 - Northeast Edition #3
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette & Pennsylvania Turnpike

The Pennsylvania Turnpike announced Jan. 17 that it has awarded the first construction contract for the next major phase of the Mon/Fayette Expressway in the western part of the state.

In a news release, the Turnpike awarded a nearly $214 million contract to Pittsburgh-based Trumbull Corp. to build the first section of the road. The new stretch of the highway lies mostly in Jefferson Hills but also reaches into West Mifflin and Clairton, southeast of the Steel City.

The roadwork is part of an estimated $1.3 billion section that will run from an already completed section at Pa. Highway 51 in Jefferson Hills to Pa. 837 in Duquesne.

A public meeting is expected to be held in February explaining the scope of work, turnpike officials said, adding the forum will be advertised locally and on social media.

"This long-awaited project represents a significant investment in the [Monongahela] Valley that will not only enhance mobility in the area but is expected to bring economic opportunities to the region," noted Turnpike Commissioner Sean Logan in the release.

Last year, Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson Inc., in Hunt Valley, Md., won a $20 million contract to oversee construction of the entire 8-mi. southern part of the Mon/Fayette, which is divided into seven different construction sections.

The entire project is projected to take approximately six years to build, according to the Turnpike.

"Unlike the Southern Beltway, we will be able to open portions of the Mon/Fayette Expressway as they are built," said Brad Heigel, chief engineer with the Turnpike. "Once the overhead toll gantries are in place and tested, the section can be opened to traffic."

Currently, the Mon/Fayette Expressway stretches 54 mi. from Interstate 68, near Morgantown, W. Va., to Pa. 51.

Eventually, the toll road will extend to the Monroeville, Pa. area.

Mon/Fayette to Try Out New Techniques

The Mon/Fayette highway was conceived in the 1960s as a lifeline to the steel industry, which had nine major plants in the area, employing a total of about 60,000 people, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. There were many starts and stops along the way to construction, and the original concept of including a wing to Pittsburgh along the north side of the Monongahela River met with political and financial objections.

Now, more than a generation later, the highway is ready to move forward — in a reduced scope. Dropping the link to Pittsburgh and substantially narrowing the medians has reduced the overall cost of the project to about half of the original $4 billion estimate.

The new toll road also will serve as a test bed for innovative transportation construction techniques that could use noise reduction walls to reduce pollution and produce electricity from traffic-generated road vibrations for road signs, among other things.

The four pilot projects will include:

  • Redesigning noise walls using a hollow, honeycomb-like material to reduce sound and treating it with a catalyst that will capture nitrogen oxides generated by vehicles with combustion engines. The process is designed to convert the pollutants into harmless nitrates that will dissipate naturally, like a car's catalytic converter.
  • Using the natural vibrations that vehicles cause on road surfaces to generate electricity for road signs. Researchers will test whether the sensors to capture vibrations work better with asphalt or concrete surfaces before they choose a location to try the system, which also would use recycled plastic.
  • Creating a digital, three-dimensional model of a 1-mi. section of the Expressway as it is being constructed. The model will simulate and monitor the wear and tear on the road over the years.
  • Testing which method works best for recharging electric vehicles as they drive over the road surface. The process involves putting charging elements just under the roadway that are activated when electric vehicles drive over them and recharge their batteries as they drive.

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