Public meeting held on Morrisville project

December 20, 2012
Jim Prisk of the engineering consultant firm Trans Associates discusses the first phase of the Morrisville project at a public meeting Thursday. - Bob Niedbala / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

WAYNESBURG – Plans were displayed at a public meeting Thursday for the first phase of a long-awaited project aimed at alleviating traffic congestion on Route 19/21 in Morrisville.

The Morrisville project has been discussed and planned, started and stopped, for numerous years.

The first phase will involve widening the road from Arch Street to Sugar Run Road to four lanes and includes replacing the railroad overpass and the bridge over Ten Mile Creek, which are two lanes each, with new four-lane structures.

The project originally also included widening the remaining section of road between Sugar Run and the Route 19/21 split. However, several years ago the project was broken into two phases because of funding constraints.

The first phase, which is fully funded and will cost about $20 million, will be bid in June and could get underway in August, said Troy Pritts, project manager with the state Department of Transportation.

The project is expected to take two and half to three years to complete and will be done without a regular detour.

“With all the congestion here now, we didn’t want to make things any worse during construction,” Pritts said. A detour will be employed on the few nights when steel bridge beams are being set, he said.

The project also will include making lane and signal modifications to the Sugar Run Road intersection.

But will it end the bottleneck that is Morrisville, Pritts was asked.

“It’s the first step in alleviating the congestion,” he said. “It is going to help, but to solve the problem probably the entire corridor will have to be widened as well.”

Phase one will help by giving eastbound traffic turning right onto Sugar Run Road a dedicated turning lane. But it also addresses the two “biggest hurdles” in the overall project, the replacement of the bridge and overpass, Pritts said.

From Sugar Run to the Route 19/21 split, the road will remain three lanes until phase two.

“I’m really pleased to see this project coming to fruition,” said Pam Snyder, state representative-elect, who attended a project meeting for public officials prior to the public meeting.

“It’s long overdue,” she said, especially with the county’s growth and the increase in traffic along the corridor.

Snyder said she would like to see PennDOT and the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission, the regional planning group, look into how much more work might be needed in Morrisville after the first phase is completed.

Franklin Township Supervisor Corbly Orndorff, who attended both meetings, said he’s sure there will be “small glitches” during construction but the “positives far outweigh the negatives.”

PennDOT has done a good job in planned the project to lessen the impact during construction, he said. Orndorff said he also believes the project is needed and the supervisors have heard no opposition to either phase one or phase two.

About a dozen people attended the public meeting. Several had questions about the project or expressed their concerns.

Dan Hopkins of Waynesburg Plumbing, for instance, wanted to know whether the curb that would be built on Greene Street would affect trucks coming into his property to load and unload.

Pritts said two openings were planned to allow access to the company’s lot and to meet a requirement to control access to the roadway.

PennDOT has been working with engineering consultants, Trans Associates, on the plan and is in the final design phase.

Pritts said highway traffic will be maintained during construction by building two lanes of the new bridge next to the old bridge and transferring traffic to the new section while the old bridge is demolished and two new lanes built in its place.

PennDOT also must maintain rail service and will build a new overpass west of the existing overpass. The new overpass will be used by trains until the original overpass is widened. Both overpasses will remain in place to allow Norfolk Southern to operate two tracks in the area, he said.

The only building that will be displaced by the project is the McDonald’s Restaurant at Sugar Run Road. The restaurant is expected to relocate in the area.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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