I-70 work outlined

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The state Department of Transportation will spend $33 million to widen Interstate 70 from four to six lanes in a project in South Strabane Township designed to also improve the highway’s dangerous Beau Street interchange.


PennDOT is expected to award a contract in 2015 for the project involving just shy of 2 miles of I-70 between the south junction to Interstate 79 and Beau Street, said Barry Lyons, a project manager.


“When they designed this in the 1950s and built it in the 1960s, it showed that just two lanes in each direction were needed,” Lyons said.


Today, with the section of the road being traveled by 58,000 vehicles a day, PennDOT realized the highway needed to be widened, he said Wednesday at a public meeting announcing the work in the South Strabane Township Building.


“The purpose of today, you don’t want to just pop something out to the public. Maybe there is something we missed,” Lyons said.


The work is part of four separate projects to improve I-70 between the north and south junctions to I-79.


A contract is expected to be awarded June 14 on $55 million in improvements west of the Murtland Avenue interchange, which also is in South Strabane. Another project involves creating an innovative diamond-shaped interchange along Route 19 to improve and create safer traffic flow onto I-70. Another $50 million project is under way to build massive ramps off I-79 to I-70 at the south junction to eliminate a ramp there known as the “killer curve.”


The meeting Wednesday marked Beau Street-to-I-79 project’s entry in the environmental clearances phases, Lyons said.


While no houses will be torn down to pave way for creating two additional I-70 lanes there, Lyons said, portions of 37 parcels of property will need to be purchased by PennDOT. The dangerous I-70 east entrance ramp from Beau Street also will be straightened and lengthened to provide better access to the highway.


He said another meeting will be scheduled with residents along Lakeview Drive to determine if they want PennDOT to build noise barrier walls.


Bob Wharton of East Washington was among a handful of local residents who attended the early stages of the meeting.


“Something needed to be done,” Wharton said, referring to the Beau Street interchange he considers to be a “death ride.”


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