Mon-Fayette Expressway top subject at state hearing
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Residents, civic leaders and public officials yesterday took wish lists to a state panel that establishes transportation priorities, but no project garnered more attention than the proposed Mon-Fayette Expressway.
Not surprisingly, business representatives and most public officials voiced their support for the incomplete limited-access toll road that would eventually stretch from Interstate 68 near Morgantown, W.Va., through the Mon Valley to connections in Pittsburgh and Monroeville.
But not all public officials spoke in favor of the road, which now extends from Route 51 in Jefferson Hills to Brownsville.
Funding is in place to extend the road south to Uniontown and a connection with I-68 by 2012, but no funding is on the horizon for the $3.6 billion estimated cost for the Y-shaped northern connector from Route 51 to Squirrel Hill and Monroeville.
Braddock Mayor John Fetterman called the proposed northern extension "antiquated urban planning and policy" that will result in "environmental racism" by bypassing predominantly black towns like Braddock.
"I urge you to kill the Mon-Fayette Expressway," Mr. Fetterman told the State Transportation Commission during a hearing at the Hilton Garden Inn in Southpointe, Washington County.
Mr. Fetterman took issue with comments by Chad Amond, president of the Monroeville Area Chamber of Commerce, that appeared in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story this week. Mr. Amond blamed traffic congestion heading toward Pittsburgh from Monroeville as the reason a number of companies, including GAI, U.S. Steel Research, Verizon, Unison Healthcare and Westinghouse Electric Corp., relocated.
The relocation of those companies, some of which moved from Monroeville to Homestead, had nothing to do with transportation issues, Mr. Fetterman said. Monroeville became a successful community by "siphoning" businesses from other communities and now the pendulum is swinging in the other direction, he said.
The comment caused state Rep. Joseph Markosek, a Monroeville Democrat, to respond that "Monroeville shouldn't be the villain here."
Another opponent of the highway, Andrea Boykowycz of the Pittsburgh office of Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, called the Mon-Fayette Expressway a "misbegotten boondoggle" and the "driveway to West Virginia."
"There is no prospect that the public money to build or subsidize this road will ever be found," she said. "To argue for a renewed empty commitment to this project is both irresponsible and ultimately counterproductive."
The money proposed for the completion of the Mon-Fayette Expressway could better be used to shore up the state's deteriorating bridges and roads, she said.
"The answer is we have to get an idea of what we're aiming for," said Allen D. Biehler, the state's transportation secretary and chairman of the State Transportation Commission, after the hearing. "We have to make sure our leaky roof is not leaking instead of building a new addition on the house."
First Published August 30, 2007 12:00 am