Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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.

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