The Southern Beltway toll road, which would link Pittsburgh International Airport to Southpointe, has long seemed as moribund as a forlorn junker alongside the road where the driver has taken off the license plate and sneaked away.
Even as the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has been methodically buying up properties and boarding up homes in Washington and Allegheny counties in anticipation of the day when the road would be built, there has never been any word on when the commission would scratch together the money to start construction. The betting was that the road would never be built or, at the very least, the road would never be built in our lifetimes.
But, in a surprising development, state Sen. Tim Solobay is saying a ground-breaking announcement could come at the end of this year or at the beginning of the next.
Solobay says the state is in a position to borrow money to build a portion of the highway, and a partnership between public and private entities also is a possibility. Apparently, the proposed highway has inched up on the Turnpike Commission’s priority list thanks to the region’s Marcellus Shale boom that is unlikely to be extinguished anytime soon.
If ground is actually broken and the financing is lined up – and those are still far from concrete – there is still design work to be carried out, and you can bet construction on a project of this magnitude will not be free of bumps in the road, if you’ll pardon the pun, or delays as frustrating as a rush-hour traffic tie-up. A projection that it could be completed by 2017 seems, to put it mildly, optimistic.
But it’s encouraging the “end of the beginning” of this road could be in sight. If it happens, the Southern Beltway will provide yet another economic boost to Southpointe and Washington County, and relieve the congestion on the westbound portion of Interstate 376.
It looks like this long and winding road might actually lead somewhere.