Roadwork plan increases Pittsburgh regional spending by 52 percent

If you thought there was a lot of road and bridge work going on the past few years, get ready for more — much more.

A regional planning commission gave final approval on Monday to a four-year transportation blueprint that increases spending by 52 percent over the plan it is replacing. The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, comprising 10 counties, approved the $4.7 billion plan in a unanimous voice vote.

“You’re going to see substantial additional transportation projects related to fixing the existing infrastructure,” said Dan Cessna, district executive for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. “This will make a big impact in catching us up on a huge backlog.”

Commission chairman Steve Craig of Lawrence County said the plan will take the region out of a mode of inadequate funding and “patching roads, painting stripes, plowing snow in the winter and being satisfied with the outcome.”

“You’re certainly going to see better transportation,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who said that is important now that the region is growing and traffic is likely to increase.

The plan, covering federal fiscal years 2015 through 2018, signals a reversal of years of diminished spending on infrastructure and public transit, bolstered by Act 89, the funding bill that the Legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett enacted last fall.

“We have bridges that are falling down,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. “Act 89 opens the door to our doing something about it. It doesn’t solve everything.”

The plan calls for nearly $2 billion in spending on non-interstate highways and bridges, an increase of $534 million or 37 percent; $587 million in spending on interstate highways, up $270 million or 86 percent; and $1.8 billion on transit, an increase of $455 million or 34 percent.

The biggest item by far is the second leg of the Southern Beltway, from the end of the existing Findlay Connector to Interstate 79 near the Allegheny-Washington county line. A revised estimate puts the cost at $741 million, with completion projected for 2019.

Among the larger projects are a $79 million rehabilitation of the Liberty Bridge in Downtown Pittsburgh; $68 million for Parkway West improvements from Interstate 79 to the Fort Pitt Tunnel; more than $100 million for projects on the parkway from Business Loop 376 to Pittsburgh International Airport and from the airport to the Beaver County line; $284 million for nine projects on I-70 in Washington and Westmoreland counties; and $30 million for rehabilitation of the county-owned Roberto Clemente, Andy Warhol and Rachel Carson bridges.

Also in the plan are $11.3 million for Smithfield Street Bridge rehabilitation; $17.1 million for the Elizabeth Bridge; $16.3 million for Route 28 improvements from Russellton to the Butler County line; $15.5 million to repave Route 51 from Lebanon Church Road in Pleasant Hills to Bausman Street in the city; $22.9 million for Glenwood Bridge ramps and interchange; $21.6 million to create a street grid at the former Civic Arena site in Pittsburgh’s Lower Hill District; and $81.5 million for three phases of Freedom Road improvements in Beaver County.

The plan also envisions $60 million in private funding for realignment and reconstruction of Route 18 and the nearby I-376 interchange in Beaver County, to be undertaken if Royal Dutch Shell goes ahead with its multibillion-dollar ethane cracker project; $34 million toward a planned public-private partnership to replace smaller bridges; and nearly $25 million for new buses for the Port Authority.

Jon Schmitz: or 412-263-1868. Twitter: @pgtraffic.

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