Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penndot's Progress on I-79 Fails to Please Some Neighbors

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penndot's Progress on I-79 Fails to Please Some Neighbors

Article excerpt

Rhonda McGuirk admitted to having some misgivings when she and her husband, Rick, bought their house in Harmony in 1985. A handsome home on a secluded dead-end street, it also was within 150 feet of Interstate 79, which sits on a steep slope above their backyard.

But there was a thick stand of trees between the house and the highway that obscured the view and knocked down some of the noise. "We had lots of shade, and it was just gorgeous," Ms. McGuirk said.

The McGuirks were pleased with their decision until progress paid a visit two years ago. That's when the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation began a long-discussed $18 million project to add the "missing ramps" at the Little Creek Road interchange.

Down came the trees, more than 100 of them by Ms. McGuirk's estimate. In went a drainage ditch. The McGuirks now have an unobstructed view of the expressway and its full soundtrack.

They also have more traffic, as a new northbound off-ramp brings vehicles that formerly exited a mile earlier, including those headed to the Seneca Valley School District campus and a local landfill. And they have louder traffic, as heavy trucks use their "jake brakes" to slow down on the ramp.

What they don't have is satisfaction with PennDOT's remediation plans. "They act nice and they act like they're helping you," Ms. McGuirk said. "But they have an agenda."

She said her first choice when the project was announced was to have the department buy the house. But PennDOT didn't need the property to build the new ramps.

She asked for a sound wall, also to no avail, even though PennDOT is building one on the other side of the highway, where there are more houses.

PennDOT did not build a sound wall above the McGuirk house because the department "is a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars and needs to operate within the federal guidelines for sound mitigation," spokeswoman Deborah Casadei said. …

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