After the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, or SPC, tabled the four-lane toll road extension of the Mon-Fayette Expressway in March to gather more information, the 10-county planning agency voted Monday night to add the highway segment to its list of recommended projects.
Just one speaker opposed the $1.6 billion project during the public comment period, saying the expressway's “benefits and burdens are inequitably distributed along its path.”
Wilkins Township Commissioner Michael Boyd’s concerns included increased traffic on Route 22 and Interstate 376, loss of local roads such as Thompson Run Road, increased air and noise pollution, loss of residential and commercial property, as well as a hit to the municipal and school district tax base.
“Our township residents will be significantly impacted by the Mon-Fayette Expressway,” said Boyd, “But would not, for the most part, gain new, useful connectivity, given that the expressway would connect two outer suburban communities.”
Supporters cited the possible creation of 20,000 jobs and better business connectivity in the Mon Valley as reasons to vote "yes" for the 14-mile section that will run northeast from Route 51 in Jefferson Hills to Business Route 22 in Monroeville.
Despite postponing the vote to allow the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to answer SPC’s questions, they failed to do so, said Dr. Aurora Sharrod, who represents Pittsburgh.
“I think it’s poor regional decision-making for us to accept a project of this scale, without accurately answering those questions,” she said, cautioning that projected job numbers might not be restricted to local and regional growth.
Commissioner David Miller was unconvinced the road will revitalize communities in the Mon Valley.
“I’m not sure that’s necessarily the right way to do it. And I think we have to spend more time making sure that we get it right,” said Miller, who also represents Pittsburgh. “All these jobs that we’re talking about, talked about being created today, none of them are coming before 2030 and beyond. That’s a long time to wait for economic recovery.”
Robert Macey represents Allegheny County Council District 9. He saw it differently.
“The Mon-Fayette Expressway is already on the books,” he said. “Why don’t we just move forward? If we’re talking 30 years down the line, what would our forefathers have thought? If they didn’t think 30, or 40, or 50 years down the road.”
Fayette County commissioner Vincent Vicites summed up the position of many who voted “yay” when he said, “It’s time.”
The expressway has been considered a way to revitalize the Mon Valley since the 1980s. Some local officials said the money could be better spent on other transportation projects, but that would require state legislative action.