Costa, Brewster insist that Turnpike dollars are obligated to improve regional access

Harrisburg – March 31, 2017 – State Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) said today that the legislative commitment concerning the Mon-Fayette Expressway is clear and that improving access to the region via a revitalized and comprehensive transportation network is an obligation that must be fulfilled.

The lawmakers released the following statements in response to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission’s (SPC) vote earlier this week to delay funding of the Mon-Fayette Expressway. This was closely followed by an announcement by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission that it was halting work on the roadway. The combined actions of the two agencies put further economic development opportunities associated with the project in jeopardy.

The lawmakers are calling for a meeting to be convened with members of the SPC, plus officials from the Turnpike, PennDOT, and regional leaders to discuss the status of the project.

The vote suspended funding for the final 14-mile piece of a proposed 74-mile highway running from West Virginia to Monroeville. The estimated total cost of the last section of the roadway, which connects PA Route 51 in Jefferson to Monroeville, is $2.1 billion.

The Mon-Fayette Expressway project was authorized in statute and identified as a legislative priority. The funds, if not spent on the project, may be used to pay for other legislatively-mandated projects, some of which are not located in the Mon Valley or eastern suburbs.

Costa’s statement follows:

“The decision by the SPC and the Turnpike puts further development of the project in jeopardy. These actions by these two agencies should not be viewed as a license for officials from other areas to try and leverage the funding for projects outside of the region.

“The funding set aside for the project is intended to pay for the improvement of the road network serving economic development sites in the Mon Valley and eastern suburbs. As a result of the actions of this past week, we need a more detailed examination and explanation of how the Turnpike is going to ensure that the legislative mandate to build the road network is going to be accomplished.

“This is an authorized project that was established by statute to aid the region. Those funds set aside for this project should be used to make significant improvements and upgrades to the road system of the region, not be used to help fund projects in Philadelphia or elsewhere. The goal of the project was to improve access and create jobs. We cannot lose sight of the intent of the project.”

Brewster’s statement follows:

“It is imperative that officials from the Turnpike and PennDOT recognize that the enhancement of the road network in the Mon Valley and eastern suburbs is critical. Building a first-rate road system for the region through the auspices of the Turnpike has been a priority, is specified in law, and the legislative mandate cannot be ignored.

“There is a compelling need for a quality transportation system that complements the region. Workers, businesses and residents of the area must be connected to jobs, markets and communities so the entire region can be revitalized and quality of life improved. That need has not been altered by the delay in funding the Mon-Fayette.

“The people in the region have waited a long time for a transportation link that opens up long-dormant economic sites so that the whole area can enjoy economic resurgence. The funds were intended to create access to the region and should not be used to fund projects that do little or nothing to help revitalize the Mon Valley and east suburban communities.”

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