Commissioners support Mon-Fayette expressway expansion

April 20, 2017
In this file photo, workers prepare to make the final pour of concrete on a Mon-Fayette Expressway bridge over the Monongahela River on the corridor Uniontown and Centerville. - Scott Beveridge/Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The Mon-Fayette Expressway in Washington County stretching from the Monongahela River valley to Union Township was finished years ago, but the proposed 14-mile section connecting the toll road from Route 51 in Allegheny County to the Monroeville area hangs in the balance.

On Thursday, Washington County commissioners added their voices to those supporting the extension from Jefferson Hills to I-376, hoping to push the stalled project forward, linking Morgantown, W.Va., to the Parkway East.

Commission Chairman Larry Maggi, vice chairman of the Southwestern Pennnsylvania Commission, said of that organization, “There should be a full vote in June. It’s all in Allegheny County but it affects Washington County because of the connecting segment in the Mon Valley.”

Some of the argument against the $2.16 billion project, which Maggi said he personally doesn’t buy, are that the road will destroy communities in its path and that may drain population. Other opponents prefer to see funding go toward mass transit because of a potential change in commuting decades from now.

“It’s very contentious politically there,” Maggi said of the metropolitan area north of Washington County.

Maggi and Commissioner Harlan Shober voted in favor of a Mon-Fayette Expressway resolution. Commission Vice Chairman Diana Irey Vaughan was absent, but Maggi said she also supports the expansion of the Turnpike project.

A committee of the SPC meets Monday.

“I think we’ll work it out,” Maggi said. “I feel positive we’re going to come to a sucesssful conclusion. I’ve already heard of some minds being changed.”

The Turnpike Commission called the expressway “the largest and most expensive of the four Mon-Fayette projects … Design was started in 2004 but halted in 2009 due to lack of funding.”

Additional highway funds from a fuel tax, approved by the legislature and governor in 2013 revived it, but late last month, the Turnpike Commission issued a news release about the “freeze” on project spending after the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission in late March delayed action on whether or not to add the toll road to the region’s transportation plan.

Whatever the SPC decides, it is not expected to slow the progress on the Southern Beltway under construction by the Turnpike Commission between Route 22 and I-79.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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