Construction is about to begin on a Southern Beltway section that is being hailed as a vital link between the energy corporation headquarters in Washington County and Pittsburgh International Airport.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission announced Monday it awarded two major contracts for the 12-mile toll road, including one for construction of a bridge over Route 22 that will connect this beltway section to an existing corridor to Route 60 at the airport.
“It’s full steam ahead,” said state Sen. Tim Solobay, who announced a year ago the long-stalled project would become a reality.
The $550-million road, when completed, will reduce the travel time to and from the airport for local residents as well as energy and other employees at Southpointe in Cecil, said Solobay, D-Canonsburg, who is a member of the state Senate Transportation Committee. The highway also will open nearly 4,000 acres of land for development in Cecil and Robinson townships, he added.
Solobay said “shovels will be moving” soon and the road should open to traffic in less than four years.
Washington County Commission Chairman Larry Maggi said the energy boom and related growth in Washington County helped to expedite completing the beltway, which includes the unfunded third corridor from near Southpointe to the Mon-Fayette Expressway at Gastonville.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” said Maggi, a member of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, which recommends transportation projects for funding by the state Legislature.
Traffic from Washington County to the airport routinely gets stalled at Interstate 79 at Interstate 376, also known as the Parkway.
“The Parkway is congested now. If it rains, there is a traffic problem. If it looks like rain, it’s a backup,” Maggi said.
“We’re glad to hear there is positive movement,” he said.
The Turnpike Commission announced Monday it hired CDR Maguire Inc. of Pittsburgh to manage the construction of this entire project, which will extend from the southern end of the existing 6-mile beltway and proceed southeast into Allegheny County and tie into Washington County at the Allegheny County line.
Mosites Construction Co. of Pittsburgh was awarded a $14 million contract to construct the bridge.
Andy Schrader, chairman of the Cecil board of supervisors, said the turnpike contacted him last March about acquiring part of his property on Reissing Road, but has not since made contact to negotiate an offer. Schrader said some of his neighbors already have been uprooted, and the commission proposed purchasing about a half-acre of Schrader’s woods.
He said that while he will try to get the best deal just like his neighbors, it is also bothersome that he has to give up part of his property.
“I thought I could live here and have my house and the little bit of woods I have alongside me until I die, and it’s just not happening,” Schrader said.
Staff writer Emily Petsko contributed to this report.