EIGHTY FOUR – Major road construction projects this year will focus on improving Interstate 70 in Washington County, including a revolutionary “diverging diamond” interchange for the Murtland Avenue exits.
State Department of Transportation officials Thursday outlined their construction plans for 2014 and how the recently passed Act 89, which essentially raised the state’s gasoline tax by about 11 cents per gallon, will help fund repaving and other projects.
“Finally, spring has sprung,” PennDOT District 12 Executive Joe Szczur said. “It’s been a long winter and, hopefully, it’s over. We have a lot of work to do.”
Szczur and other PennDOT workers outlined their plans to nearly 40 local officials at the department’s county maintenance office along Route 519 in North Bethlehem Township. The theme of the meeting was the myriad of new construction projects on the table thanks to Act 89 of 2013, which offers an expanded revenue stream for transportation projects.
Although the law was relatively unpopular after gas prices literally jumped overnight when it took effect Jan. 1, Szczur said it’s been an important investment into the state’s aging bridges and roads.
“We have job security with maintaining and working on our roads,” Szczur said. “We can’t do enough, quick enough. … This isn’t a thing we’ll be able to fix overnight. We have a big portfolio of projects we want to do.”
PennDOT expects to use Act 89 money for $16.85 million in various road resurfacing projects in Washington County. The state will spend about $6.5 million on resurfacing jobs in Greene County.
But major projects on I-70 from Washington to New Stanton are some of the most noticeable improvements motorists will see in the next few years. Construction of the “diverging diamond” interchange that will invert traffic on Route 19 at the Murtland exit to improve safety there is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania.
The $57 million construction project will begin this fall and is expected to improve on-ramps and exits, while adding a third lane heading to the south junction with Interstate 79.
“This project will set us up for future projects on I-70,” said Bill Beaumarriage, who is PennDOT District 12’s portfolio manager. “It’s a big job for us and hopefully it will be a big job for you all.”
That includes the three-year reconstruction of the Glyde/Eighty Four exit on I-70, which is expected to be completed by the summer. There are also plans to improve the interchanges at the Bentleyville and Monongahela/Centerville exits in the upcoming years.
Elsewhere, the $4.8 million reconstruction of Valley Brook Road in Peters Township is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Construction on a double roundabout at Route 519 and Brownlee Road in North Strabane Township, which is expected to cost $4.2 million, is expected to begin in July and take two years to complete.
“I’d like to say roundabouts are a thing of the future, but they’re really a thing of the past,” Beaumarriage said of their previous uses in European countries.
People living in the Mon Valley will also say goodbye to the Donora-Webster Bridge spanning the Monongahela River that was closed in July 2010 after it was deemed structurally deficient. The bridge will be imploded later this year and will not be replaced.