Few sections of the Pennsylvania Turnpike are busier than the 10-mile stretch between the Pittsburgh/Monroeville exit in Allegheny County and the Irwin exit in Westmoreland County.
So while an expansion project planned for that area -- from two lanes to three lanes in both directions, plus some bridge work -- could mean some short-term pain for motorists, in the long run the road will be better able to accommodate traffic.
Widening the road "seems like a good idea, especially when you get stuck in traffic," said Frank Horrigan, president of the Monroeville Area Chamber of Commerce.
He said traffic on the Monroeville end has increased recently because of the opening in July of the new UPMC East hospital in Monroeville.
"From the chamber's point of view, the efficient movement of people to and through the area is good for our members," Mr. Horrigan said. "More cars coming through the community means a higher potential for business."
The turnpike widening project, which could cost up to $225 million, will add one lane in each direction along the 10-mile stretch. But right now it's just in the early planning stages, said turnpike spokesman Bill Capone, with the first stage of construction -- replacing four bridges that carry local roads over the turnpike -- not expected to get under way until 2016.
In addition, 12 bridges along the main line of the turnpike will be rebuilt and the median will be widened to 26 feet. There will be a 12-foot-wide shoulder on each side of the road and each of the three travel lanes will be 12 feet wide.
Turnpike officials have begun meeting with local officials and property owners whose land will be needed for the widening project, Mr. Capone said.
The work also may include improvements to the Irwin interchange, where many drivers exit to drive a short distance to reach another heavily traveled road, Route 30.
Mr. Capone said that two travel lanes in each direction on the turnpike will stay open during the construction to prevent traffic backups from getting too severe. A concrete barrier will protect workers as they add each of the third, outside lanes.
Turnpike officials have begun sending letters to about 500 people who own property along that stretch of the turnpike, which will be needed for the additional lanes.
"We won't know all the property impacts until the design work is completed," Mr. Capone said. He didn't have a schedule on that.
Mr. Horrigan said that property owners along the expansion area "should be properly compensated."
Acting Irwin police Chief Dan Wensel is happy about the widening project.
"That stretch between Monroeville and Irwin is pretty busy," he said. "I think the widening will benefit traffic in the long run, though there could be some hindrances while construction is going on."
The east-west portion of the turnpike is 360 miles long and crosses the entire state, from the Ohio line to the New Jersey line. In addition, a 111-mile stretch called the Northeast Extension runs between the Philadelphia area and Scranton. Mr. Capone said that about 100 miles of those roads have been widened in recent years. Eight more miles of roadway are under construction now, and work for another 155 miles is in design.
The section of the turnpike between Monroeville and Irwin is called Section 9 and goes from milepost 57 to 67.
The first 10 miles of the turnpike -- called Section 1 and starting at the Ohio line -- were rebuilt in 2009 for $135 million. Work is now being designed for milepost 12 to 14, called Section 2, and that construction is expected to be completed by 2016 at a cost of $150 million. It will include a new Beaver River bridge.
Other turnpike reconstruction work in Western Pennsylvania includes: milepost 28 to 31, work is in design and should be done by 2016; milepost 31 to 38, widening was finished in 2012 and cost $131 million; milepost 38 to 40, work was completed in 2005 and cost $18 million; milepost 40 to 48, reconstruction should be done by 2014 at a cost of $200 million; milepost 48 to 50, work was completed in 2010 for $205 million; and milepost 50 to 57, called Section 8, work is in design and should be done by 2017.
Tom Barnes, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.