McMURRAY – More than 15 months and $7.36 million later, Valley Brook Road in Peters Township opened to traffic Thursday afternoon.
The first car traveled west up the newly constructed ramp toward Washington Road at 2:47 p.m., following a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Since May 2013, nearly 11,000 vehicles a day had to find an alternate route to compensate for the closure that is a major east-west corridor through the township.
No one is happier the road reopened than two township residents, Lyn Ultsch and Rose Hubbell.
The two women live on opposite ends of the township, which is home to more than 22,000 residents, and they often meet on Arrowhead Trail to ride bicycles.
The road closure affected their lives in several ways. Ultsch said she hasn’t gone to the township library as often, mainly because there was no easy way for her to get there, and Hubbell said, “I stopped going to the Dairy Bar (Heisler’s Market) and I just went to Giant Eagle. I know some businesses have suffered.”
Ed Heisler, owner of Heisler’s Market at the corner of Valley Brook and East McMurray roads said he believes business should pick up with the road opened.
The family bought the former McMurray Dairy Bar in February, midway through road construction.
“When people go home, it will be a lot easier and they can go up McMurray Road,” Heisler said about 15 minutes after the road opened.
He’s also pleased he can drive home north on Washington Road and avoid several school zones on his alternate route along East McMurray Road.
Deliveries to the market will be easier, as well, he said.
“(The trucks) were stuck in a lot more traffic,” he said.
The road closed in late May 2013 to reconstruct the ramp to and from Washington Road.
The once narrow two-lane ramp, now has three uphill turning lanes, each marked with a large white directional arrow on the black asphalt. The portion of Valley Brook Road that once traveled directly under Washington Road was redesigned to better accommodate traffic. The intersection of Valley Brook Road and Old Washington Road was re-configured with a new traffic light to permit easier access from Old Washington Road.
The traffic signals on Washington Road, also known as Route 19, were upgraded and turned on. Motorists are reminded to heed the lights when driving on Washington Road. During construction, the lights were on constant yellow flash.
One of the closest businesses to construction and at the end of a more than one-mile stretch from the nearest cross street is the Pittsburgh Youth Ballet Company and School, 210 Valley Brook Road.
“We are excited for Valley Brook Road to be open so Pittsburgh Youth Ballet Company and School will be easy to get to for all dance students traveling from Upper St. Clair, Mt.Lebanon, Canonsburg and surrounding communities,” said artistic director Jean Gedeon.
Krysta Whitecap has been the ballet school’s office manager since June.
“I live in Mt. Lebanon and the closure has put quite a bit of extra time on my trip,” Whitecap said. “Parents and students have complained it took extra time to get here.”
Cathy Kaecher, a school employee, said some parents put the address on GPS and the system would tell them the destination would take about 15 minutes. Then, the student would be late for class because it took longer.
As officials stood on the ramp during the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Adam Gross waited in the parking lot of St. Petersburg Center at 210 Valley Brook Road. Instead of taking a lengthy detour to his home in Upper St. Clair, he decided to wait until the road opened.
He’d just been to the dentist and an eye center and was pleased he could cut his drive time by waiting a few minutes for the road to open.
“Normally, I have no need (to use) the road, but I thought I’d chance it,” Gross said as he waited in the shade along Arrowhead Trail. “It’s been a real inconvenience for people, but not for me, but I decided to wait it out to say I was one of the first to go through.”
Hubbell and Ultsch were thrilled the inconvenience of the closure was over.
“I am so happy,” Ultsch said.
“Now, we’re going to bike, and I can go up the ramp and go right home,” Hubbell said.