The $2 billion question
The Mon-Fayette extension is not the best use
With so many of the region’s roads and bridges in poor shape, it would be an awful shame to waste a huge sum on a project that isn’t needed. The Legislature should pass a law allowing the $2 billion earmarked for the final leg of the Mon-Fayette Expressway to be used for other regional projects. That’s the fiscally responsible thing to do.
For decades, the MonFayette Expressway was touted as the economic hope of Monongahela Valley towns that weren’t rebounding from steel’s decline. The toll road was intended to link West Virginia and the Parkway East, the notion being that enhanced access to Pittsburgh would give the depressed mill towns new life.
The sections of road from Interstate 68 in Monongalia County, West Virginia, to Route 51 in Jefferson Hills were completed years ago. But the final leg, to the Parkway East, never materialized. In 2009, the project stalled for political and financial reasons.
The project was resurrected four years later, and now, there’s $2 billion available to build that last stretch of highway. But it’s a foolish proposition. The existing road is underused, and the economic potential of extending it is questionable. Further, it would take 20 years to build, and so many other infrastructure projects are going begging. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald initially declined to support the final leg for those reasons. He changed his mind after learning the funds would go to other Pennsylvania Turnpike improvements, likely elsewhere in the state, unless the Legislature passed a law allowing the money to be reallocated for other local projects.
But the Legislature is reluctant to do that. Government officials and civic leaders in the Mon Valley still want to realize their dream of a Parkway East connection. Legislators should tell them it’s over. Then they should pass a law reallocating the $2 billion for other local infrastructure projects, some of which could benefit the Mon Valley.
Otherwise, the money should be used on turnpike projects elsewhere in Pennsylvania. Better it be used for good somewhere than squandered here.