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Roddey throws his support behind Mon-Fayette Expressway project

Saturday, February 12, 2000

By Joe Grata, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The Mon Valley Progress Council, a Monessen-headquartered organization of civic, business and elected officials, has heard what it wanted to hear -- again.

Allegheny County Executive Jim Roddey is solidly behind building the Mon-Fayette Expressway, a 70-mile, $2 billion toll road to establish a new transportation corridor between West Virginia and Pittsburgh and to stimulate economic development.

"The key to the region's economic development is access," Roddey said, "and the number one project to provide that access is the Mon-Fayette Expressway."

As guest speaker at the Mon Valley Progress Council's 35th annual dinner last night at Georgetown Center, Pleasant Hills, Roddey personally confirmed, to 250 guests, the support he expressed last year during his campaign for the top-ranking political position in the region.

As a result, Allegheny County's official -- and continuing -- endorsement of the expressway goes back to the 1980s when Larry Dunn, Pete Flaherty and the late Tom Foerster ruled under the former commissioner form of government.

Roddey said he would champion the cause in Allegheny County not only to secure additional funding for the ambitious project, but also to see that the expressway is built "in bigger sections, not piecemeal."

"This is not a project that will be finished next year or the year after. It's a long-term project," Roddey said. "We've got to convince other people who live in places such as the Allegheny Valley and the East End why this highway is necessary for all of the region to prosper."

On Feb. 1, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, expressway builder as a result of a legislative mandate, awarded the final construction contract for a 17-mile section that will go from I-70 near California, Washington County, north to Route 51 in the Large area of Jefferson Hills. The section is to be open to traffic by the fall of 2001.

On March 1, the turnpike will open about six more miles of new expressway south of Uniontown, Fayette County. But officials expect the section to get limited use until a southern connection is finished to I-68 in West Virginia.

The Y-shaped northern section, from Route 51 to Pittsburgh and the Parkway East near Monroeville, is in the early design and environmental assessment phases. Officials have been saying they need to find another $1 billion to complete the planning, acquire property, relocate utilities and construct the limited-access highway -- about a 10-year process in an urban area like Pittsburgh.

The Turnpike Commission also is developing a related toll road, the Southern Beltway, that would tie into the Mon-Fayette Expressway near Finleyville and follow the Allegheny-Washington county border northwest to Pittsburgh International Airport.

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