Local

Leaders consider widening Pennsylvania Turnpike between Pittsburgh, Irwin interchanges

WESTMORELAND COUNTY, Pa. — Widening the Pennsylvania Turnpike to six lanes from its current four lanes between the Pittsburgh and Irwin interchanges is a big, expensive project – estimated at $300 million.

“This is to get the road to modern highway standards, as well as increase capacity and safety design,” said Crispin Havener of the Turnpike Commission.

Before work can be done to expand the highway, the Harvison Road Bridge has to be taken out. It won’t fit across the turnpike once it’s widened.

The Turnpike Commission won’t be replacing it.

“We determined that a replacement of the Harvison Road Bridge presented too many complications from both an engineering as well as an expense perspective relative to the daily traffic count in that area to warrant a replacement bridge,” Havener added.

Instead, they plan to do upgrades to Harvison Road and make a cul-de-sac dead end.

That had Penn Township and some neighbors worried.

“Ok. If you remove this bridge, we kind of have a problem,” said Penn Township Engineer Dan Schmitt.

The worry is that there is no fire hydrant on Harvison Road. Fire crews would hook up on the western side of the bridge and run their hoses across the bridge to Harvison Road.

Bids will go out Tuesday to hire a contractor to extend the water line under the turnpike from Pleasant Valley Road and install fire hydrants on the eastern side.

“When that bridge goes away, we will have firefighting capability on that side,” Schmitt said.

Neighbors who spoke to Channel 11′s Andrew Havranek are split on the issue.

Two who did not want to go on camera are worried about the commute. They say they will have to take a detour from their homes and add up to 15 minutes to their drive.

Others worry about the potential traffic backups on Pleasant Valley Road.

Others say they welcome the bridge’s removal, especially because of the traffic that passes through on a daily basis.

“I don’t mind them removing the bridge at all,” said Brenda Williams. “It’ll just make this area like our own little private area then.”

The Turnpike Commission said the removal of the bridge should be completed by the spring of 2025.

The widening project will be done in phases. The first phase from Penn Township to Irwin will begin in fall 2028. The second phase, from Penn Township to Monroeville, will be determined “based on the schedule of the first phase and funding availability,” according to the Turnpike Commission.

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