Completion of the Mon/Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway projects will create about 98 miles of new limited-access highways south and west of Pittsburgh in Allegheny, Washington and Fayette counties. (Pennsylvania Turnpike photo)
There's not much about this summer that's normal, except for the heat.
And the road construction.
Construction projects of all stripes came to a halt in March when officials locked down much of Pennsylvania to combat COVID-19. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) projects got going again in phases, with all of them back in gear on May 1.
The marquee road construction project in the southwest region of the state is the ongoing work on the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Southern Beltway.
Once completed, the Southern Beltway will link Pittsburgh International Airport to Interstate 79 in Cecil Township. It had been on track to be finished by Fall 2021, but a completion date is now uncertain due to the delays caused by the coronavirus shutdowns.
"We have yet to determine how that will affect the overall plan," explained Renee Colborn, a public information manager of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, which is spearheading the operation.
Work on the Southern Beltway only started again after employees completed a training program designed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, she added. The guidelines the crews on the Southern Beltway must adhere to are compiled in a booklet that numbers 33 pages.
Meanwhile, a menu of other projects in PennDOT's 12th district, which includes Washington, Greene, Fayette and Westmoreland counties, also are back under way.
Included in that menu is a $10 million project on PA Route 18 (Jefferson Avenue) in Washington.
The PA 18 corridor provides important connections within the community, region and state as it's a major highway that traverses the entire west side of Pennsylvania from Lake Erie south to the West Virginia border. Within Washington County, the PA 18 corridor plays an important role providing mobility and accessibility for residents, businesses and visitors.
This PA 18 Improvement Project is located on the local roadway network that surrounds the I-70 Exit 17 (Jefferson Avenue) Interchange. The construction tasks involve replacing roadway, drainage, traffic signal, ADA curb ramp, lighting and intersection improvements to PA 18 and Wylie Avenue in the city of Washington.
Other projects back in action in the area include:
- PennDOT is carrying out work on Interstate 70 in the vicinity of Fallowfield Township, Twilight and Speers. The jobs include patching and resurfacing. The project was restarted May 4 and is set to be completed Oct. 30.
- Throughout Washington County, PennDOT will be repairing 16 different bridges. Work is tentatively set to be completed at the end of August, and some areas will require lane closures.
Given the rise in the number of coronavirus cases in southwestern Pennsylvania in recent days, is there a possibility that some projects could be shut down again?
"We have not developed plans to close down projects generally should such measures be enacted by the governor and the Department of Health," said John Ofsanik said, a PennDOT spokesman.
He added that projects would need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, taking their cues from the health department, the governor's office and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.