Progress being made in Southern Beltway construction
January 11, 2016 12:00 AM
Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
The Pennsylvania Turnpike commission finished the $14 million construction of these bridges over Route 22 in Robinson, Washington County, in the fall in the latest step forward on construction of the Southern Beltway. The top of the photo shows where through traffic from the Findlay Connector will join the bridges and the bottom part shows where the next section will be built after bids are awarded in September.
By Ed Blazina / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Although they won’t be able to drive on it for at least three more years, motorists can see the next leg of the Southern Beltway beginning to take shape along the Washington-Allegheny County border.
The next stretch of the toll road project, which eventually will link the Mon-Fayette Expressway with Pittsburgh International Airport, is a 13-mile section from Interstate 79 to Route 22 in Robinson Township, Washington County. The first pieces of that $670 million project, parallel bridges over Route 22, were completed in the fall and the two-mile stretch from near Beech Hollow Road to the bridges will go out for bids in September.
Last week, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission approved a $954,135 contract with Cast & Baker for wetlands mitigation as part of the highway project. Jeff Davis, the engineer overseeing the project, said the contractor will create 8.3 acres of new wetlands and preserve 5.7 acres at a site about four miles away from the highway in Smith Township.
(Click image for larger version)
Mr. Davis and turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo said it’s not unusual for new wetlands to be developed away from the highway as long as the site is in the same watershed.
“[Environmentalists] probably wouldn’t want the wetlands right next to the highway anyway with all of the runoff,” Mr. Davis said.
The beltway is being built in sections. The first, known as the Findlay Connector, runs for about six miles from Interstate 376 near Pittsburgh International Airport to Route 22 in northern Washington County and opened in 2006.
Construction on the second, 13-mile section began with the bridges that were completed in the fall and will carry through-traffic once the next section is finished. It is being built in five sections with the two-mile stretch from Route 22 to the Beech Hollow Road area next at a cost of $40 million to $50 million to be completed in late 2018.
Construction on the remaining sections will overlap with the final project being the connection with I-79. Mr. Davis said a projection of completing this leg of the project by the end of 2019 might be overly optimistic because issues still need to be worked out with the national cemetery and a sportman’s club near the interstate interchange.
“[Part of it] is probably going to sit unused for about a year,” Mr. Davis said. “We looked at dumping traffic on Route 50 or one of the other local roads, but that really wouldn’t work. We’re going to have to wait for everything to be done [before opening the road to traffic].”
Regardless of when each section is finished, none of them will be opened until the full 13-mile stretch is ready. That stretch passes through Canonsburg, Houston, Midway, McDonald, Robinson, Mount Pleasant and Cecil in Washington County, and Oakdale, South Fayette and North Fayette in Allegheny County.
The last segment of the beltway, 13 miles from I-79 to the Mon-Fayette Expressway, is still under design and could cost $816 million.
Ed Blazina: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1470.
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