PennDOT reveals Route 980 realignment, trail bridge plans

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Construction plans for the realignments of routes 980 and 50 in Cecil Township along with a new bridge that will join two portions of Montour Trail were revealed at Cecil Township Municipal Building Thursday night.


The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation project will convert a section of Route 980 South that currently bootlegs in a zigzag fashion as it approaches Route 50 into a four-way intersection.


James Sisul, project manager for PennDOT, said the state had recently funded the realignment through the Transportation Improvement Project and gave the green light for construction to begin in spring 2015.


“This project is moving forward, mainly because of safety implications,” Sisul said. “The plus-shaped configuration benefits both drivers and people using the trail and the four-way stop is a considerable improvement.”


Construction crews will move the southern end of Route 980 so that it is directly across from the northern end and install a four-way stop. Currently, drivers traveling southbound on 980 have to turn right onto 50 before abruptly making a 135-degree left hand turn onto 980. Likewise, pedestrians and bicyclists using the Montour Trail currently have to walk down a stretch of stairs from an original pillar of the old bridge, cross the intersection of 980 and 50 before getting back onto the trail at the northern end.


A welded-plate girder bridge will be installed in a span of Montour Trail that has been missing since the original bridge was removed in 2001 because of low clearance. Sisul said workers funded by Cecil Township and Montour Trail have already raised the earth approaching the span to incorporate plans for a higher bridge.


Roy Weil, 65, of Pittsburgh, said the new bridge would improve the time he spends on Montour Trail.


“Several times, we’ve come this far and turned around,” Weil said. “At 5 o’clock in the afternoon, I would not recommend crossing that stretch of road.”


The new span will give the Mountour Trail more than 30 miles of continuous pathway.


Mary Shaw, 65, of Pittsburgh, said the added stretch would eventually allow bicyclists to travel from the Pittsburgh International Airport straight through to an access point to the Appalachian Trail near McKeesport.


“This trail system is going to bring big business into small towns without other economic inflow,” Shaw said.


State Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, was at the meeting to speak with residents about the proposed changes. He said the lack of any opposition to the proposed plans showed how well local residents were receiving it.


“I’ve lived on both sides of that intersection, and it is really important,” White said. “I remember when that trestle was up and you couldn’t drive on some days because a truck was stuck under there.


“Because of its location, it’s really the gateway to Washington County. With the significant increase in traffic recently, the importance of this intersection can’t be understated.”


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