Almost two years and millions of dollars later, the Interstate 79 flyover ramp is ready to open.
At 5 p.m. today, motorists can use the flyover ramp, which connects I-79 north to I-70 west at the south junction in South Strabane Township. The flyover ramp eliminates the “killer curve” at the junction and allows for smoother traffic patterns, Scott Faieta, assistant construction engineer for the state Department of Transportation, said.
“Traffic will be smoother, there will no longer be the potential for accidents and it will eliminate any backups coming from Laboratory Hill,” he said.
Faieta said the “killer curve,” which had a hairpin turn and was the scene of many accidents, was built in the late ’60s and early ’70s. While he could not provide a reason as to why it was built in the manner that it was, Faieta believes engineers at the time were limited.
“Probably, when the connection was made, it was due to the right-of-way limitations,” he said. “We spent a lot of years projecting how to eliminate the killer curve with much smoother symmetry.”
Faieta said the ramp and 2,000-foot bridge will take some time getting used to.
“Locals who live in the area and are used to the (current) configuration might want to use some caution,” he said. “They will need to get acclimated. Originally, they took Laboratory Hill from 79 and needed to be in the left lane. Now, they need to be in the right lane.”
Construction on the project began in the fall of 2011, Faieta said. Now that the flyover ramp is complete, Faieta said crews will continue to rehab two bridges that run underneath the ramp, add additional lighting, mill and pave I-79 and wrap up any loose ends. The entire project, which will cost close to $36 million, will be completed in October 2014.
“There are no additional delays expected,” he said. “We are on schedule with this project.”